Supreme Court Upholds Texas College’s Affirmative Action Plan
The Supreme Court today voted to uphold a component of the University of Texas’ admissions policy that takes race into account.
In a 5-3 vote, the justices upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, which had ruled in favor of the state’s including race in its admissions process.
This case is the second trip to the Supreme Court for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas and then filed a lawsuit challenging the university’s use of race in admissions.
In Fisher I, the Supreme Court ruled that the lower courts were too deferential to school administrators, and were required to look more closely at actual evidence, rather than accept school administrators’ assurances of their good intentions when considering race. The lower court took another look and stood by its earlier decision, and the case ended up back before the justices, who heard oral arguments Dec. 9, 2015.
Texas has a unique admissions program, which first takes approximately the top 10 percent of graduating high school seniors in the state, and then uses race as part of a “holistic” analysis, which also includes things like community service, leadership and family circumstances in filling the remaining spots.
Fisher’s attorneys argued that the implementation of the top 10 percent program is sufficient to increase minority enrollment, so there is no need to take race into account when filling the remaining spots.
Fisher attorney Bert Rein had argued in December before the Supreme Court that UT needed to prove that the use of race in its admissions process was a “necessary last resort” in pursuing diversity, taking into account reasonably available nonracial alternatives.
In behalf of UT, former U.S. Solicitor General Gregory Garre argued before the Supreme Court in December that the Texas “holistic plan” is necessary to complement its other admissions process and that it has a “meaningful impact on diversity.”
He ended with “now is not the time and this is not the case to roll back student diversity in America.”
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli also argued in support of UT.
At the time of oral arguments, the late Justice Antonin Scalia spawned the hashtag #StayMadAbby, and was criticized when he suggested that it might not be a “good thing” for UT to admit as “many blacks as possible,” and that perhaps black students should attend a “slower track school.”