Dear Commons Community,
After last week’s major decisions on the Affordable Care Act and gay marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court indicated yesterday that it will revisit a case involving the use of race in admissions at the University of Texas. As reported in The Washington Post;
“The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider again whether race-conscious college admission plans are constitutional, renewing the country’s contentious debate about whether affirmative action is appropriate.
Two years ago, the court voted 7 to 1 to send the University of Texas at Austin’s plan back for further judicial review and told the lower court to apply the kind of rigorous evaluation that must accompany any government action that considers race.
“Strict scrutiny imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in 2013.
That ruling was largely seen as a punt on the part of a deeply divided court: The ruling stopped short of forbidding the consideration of race, significantly altering the court’s prescription of how such programs should operate, or even passing judgment on the UT program at issue.
Upon reconsideration, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit once again upheld the program. In a 2-to-1 vote, the panel said it was applying “exacting scrutiny,” but it concluded that UT’s limited consideration of race was “necessary” and narrowly tailored to meet the university’s compelling interest in achieving student-body diversity.
Lawyers opposed to affirmative action and representing Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to UT and filed suit in 2008, said the lower court had ignored the Supreme Court’s instructions.
“The panel deferred to UT’s post hoc speculation that racial preferences served a ‘qualitative’ diversity interest that was never studied, evaluated, or articulated when UT added racial preferences to its admissions program,” the lawyers argued.”
This will be an interesting case to follow during the next U.S. Supreme court session. It will likely have major ramifications for affirmative action in this country.