The U.S. Supreme Court has kept alive the use of affirmative
action in college admissions, but it has made clear schools must
undergo "strict scrutiny" to prove that they need to consider race
to meet diversity goals.
The high court ruled, 7-1, Monday in a case involving a white
woman, Abigail Noel Fisher, who challenged the race-conscious
admissions policies at the University of Texas at Austin after she
was rejected in 2008.
The justices sent the case back to the lower courts, saying the
lower courts had not applied "the correct standard of strict
Ken Gormley, dean of the Duquesne University Law School, gave
this analogy: The high court has "simply reaffirmed the rules of the
football game and blown the whistle on this play because they think
the lower courts didn't handle it properly. ...
"In fact, it is a rather striking pronouncement by the court that
we are not going to disturb the prior precedents in the area."
Precedents, also involving white potential students, include the
1978 case involving Allan Bakke and the University of California at
Davis and the 2003 case involving Barbara Grutter and the University
of Michigan at Ann Arbor.
Grutter permits the use of race as one of many "plus factors" in
evaluating an individual applicant.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority.
Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas each wrote a concurring
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, saying she believes the
appeals court already had completed its inquiry and that its ruling
in support of the university should have been affirmed.
Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision.
The court noted that each applicant must be evaluated as an
individual and that race or ethnicity cannot be the defining feature
of the application nor can a certain percentage be set.
The majority opinion stated that attaining a diverse student body
"serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom
dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes."
It noted the university must prove in court "that the means
chosen by the university to attain diversity are narrowly tailored
to that goal."
The majority wrote that "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."
The high court stated that the appeals court said the petitioner
could challenge only whether the decision to reintroduce race into
admissions was made in good faith. …