University affirmative action upheld by U.S. Supreme Court
A divided U.S. Supreme Court gave a surprise victory to affirmative action in college admissions, upholding a policy that the University of Texas says is crucial for fostering campus diversity.
The justices, voting 4-3, ruled against Abigail Fisher, a white woman who said she suffered unconstitutional discrimination when she was rejected by the school in 2008.
Opponents were hoping the court would use the case to put new limits on racial preferences in college admissions. The case divided the court along ideological lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the court’s liberal wing.
The ruling came from an unusual seven-member court that was missing both Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February, and Justice Elena Kagan, who was recused because she had been involved in the litigation as an Obama administration lawyer.
The Texas policy was challenged by Fisher, a white woman who said she suffered discrimination when she was rejected by the school.
Texas has a unique hybrid admissions policy. The state’s Top Ten Percent Law, enacted in 1997 in response to a court decision, requires the school to admit three-quarters of its freshman class each year solely on the basis of high school class rank.
That system, while race-neutral on the surface, ensures a significant number of minorities because it guarantees slots to students at predominantly Hispanic and black schools.
The university directly considers race as a factor only in admitting the rest of the class, adding what Texas says is an important additional component of diversity. The university’s current freshman class is 22 percent Hispanic and less than 5 percent black.