SCOTUS Upholds University Of Texas Affirmative Action

| by Kathryn Schroeder
U.S. Supreme CourtU.S. Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled the University of Texas may consider a student's race in applications for admission to the school.

In a 4 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court found affirmative action may be used by University of Texas officials  to build a diverse student body, The Washington Post reports.

The University of Texas has a one-of-a-kind admissions policy, given that it automatically offers admission to any student who graduates from a Texas high school in the top 10 percent of the class. The remaining members of its freshman class are then chosen based on the applicant's academic performance and personal achievements, which includes race.

The university uses race as a factor in admissions to maintain diversity because many Texas high schools have an overwhelming number of Hispanic and African-American students, and they may qualify for automatic acceptance based on their high school performance.

“The University of Texas at Austin has a special opportunity to learn and to teach,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion. “The University now has at its disposal valuable data about the manner in which different approaches to admissions may foster diversity or instead dilute it. 

“The University must continue to use this data to scrutinize the fairness of its admis­sions program; to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy; and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary.”

This is the first time Kennedy has voted to uphold a race-conscious plan, The Washington Post notes. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor also voted in favor of the university's use of affirmative action.

“This conclusion is remarkable -- and remarkably wrong,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent. Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas agreed.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled that students applying to the Univ. of Texas can be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity. I hope that the nation will one day move beyond affirmative action,” Abigail Fisher, the white woman who brought the suit against the university after she was denied admission, said in a statement.

Edward Blum, president of the Project on Fair Representation, which supports Fisher, believes the decision will further polarize the U.S.

“Racial classifications and preferences are one of the most polarizing policies in America today,” he said. “As long as universities like the University of Texas continue to treat applicants differently by race and ethnicity, the social fabric that holds us together as a nation will be weakened. Today’s decision is a sad step backward for the original, colorblind principles to our civil rights laws.”

Sources: The Washington Post, Supreme Court of the United States / Photo credit: FaceMePLS/Flickr

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