Supreme Court to Tackle Race in Admissions This Fall


The Supreme Court will be taking another look at an affirmative action case, taking into account the use of race as a consideration for admissions by institutions of higher education.

The case, Fisher vs. the University of Texas, deals with a white woman named Abigail Fisher, who had previously sued the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 after being denied admission to the school.

“I am very grateful that the Supreme Court will once again hear my case. I hope the justices will rule that UT is not allowed to treat undergraduate applicants differently because of their race or ethnicity,” Fisher said in a statement out shortly after the decision to rehear her case was announced.

The state offers the top 10% of high school students automatic admittance to UT Austin, with additional students able to gain admission through the normal application process.  Doing so would also bring into consideration race and ethnicity, writes Peter Jacobs for Business Insider.

Fisher had just barely missed the cutoff to be in the top 10%, as she came in 82nd in her class of 674 students at Stephen F. Austin High School.  Her lawsuit maintains that UT Austin discriminated against her due to her race, as other non-white students who had lesser grades and fewer extra-curricular activities were accepted to the school.  The lawsuit goes on to claim the admitting the top 10% of students offers enough diversity to the program, making affirmative action unnecessary.

When the case first reached the Supreme Court in 2013, a 7-1 ruling sent it to a lower court to rehear the case.  It was dismissed the following year when the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the school’s policy in a 2-1 panel decision.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the university had pushed for the court to avoid taking up the case again, partially because in the end, Fisher graduated from Louisiana State University, reports Ariane de Vogue for CNN.

According to UT Austin, “the school’s affirmative action program was needed to build a student body diverse enough to include minority students with a broad range of backgrounds and for the campus to have a ‘critical mass’ of minority students in most classrooms.”

Adam Liptak for The New York Times writes that if the court sides with the plaintiff this time and therefore barring racial preferences in higher education, the number of black and latino students at almost every institution would be greatly reduced in favor of white and Asian-American students.

The case is expected to be heard sometime this fall.