The Supreme Court is rearguing a former case, Fisher v. University of Texas (UT), involving Abigail Fisher, who after being rejected from UT, sued the university claiming that she was discriminated against for being white. The court first argued this case in 2013 and decided to bring the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, a federal court with jurisdiction in Texas. In this second look, the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of affirmative action, and the decision could possibly limit or even put an end to affirmative action at all public universities.
UT law professor, Lino Graglia predicts that four of the nine Supreme Court Justices will almost certainly vote in favor of Fisher. Four other justices will vote in favor of UT, leaving the deciding vote is speculated to come down to Justice Kennedy. At this point, Justice Kennedy seems to be who seems as if he is leaning towards voting against affirmative action.
“In other race cases, [Kennedy] … has generally been tough on racial discrimination,” Graglia said. “A lot of times these cases today come down to how Kennedy votes.”
Fisher, the plaintiff, first sued in 2008 after she was rejected from UT, claiming that her right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment was violated.
“I hope the justices will rule that the UT is not allowed to treat undergraduate applicants differently because of their race or ethnicity,” Fisher said in a statement.
The UT does use race as a factor in the admission process, but it does not give racially diverse applicants a specific numerical boost. Therefore, the school believes that its consideration of race in the admissions process is legal because it is in accordance with the Grutter v. Bollinger Supreme Court case, a previous case involving affirmative action. This case set precedent for colleges to consider race in admissions as long as the admissions process was holistic.
“Under the Supreme Court’s existing precedent, the University’s commitment to using race as one factor in an individualized, holistic admissions policy allows us to assemble a student body that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity for all students,” Gregory L. Fenves, the president of the University of Texas, said in a statement in court. “Our admissions policy is narrowly tailored, constitutional and has been upheld by the courts multiple times.”
Depending on who the court sides with, the admissions process could drastically change; there could be much less diversity at universities if the court votes in favor of Fisher.
The court has argued whether or not racial diversity is important for the past three decades. Some believe that affirmative action is justified because it encourages diversity, which creates a better learning environment.
“We are persuaded that to deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience,” Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham of he United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, said during court proceedings.
However, others believe that admitting people based on race could cause less qualified students to be accepted, which would mean they might not be as successful at that university.
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well,” Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, said in court.
The court has yet to make a final decision, and there is even a possibility that the case will go to the Court of Appeals. Either way, it is likely that once a decision is announced not only will the UT be affected, but all public universities in the United States. Diversity is prized at many colleges around the nation, however, it could be put at risk depending on the Supreme Court’s decision.