June 27, 2013
LAWT Staff Report
Monday, by a 7-1 vote the Supreme Court decided to send the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions plan back to the lower courts (that had sided with the university) stating that the court had not properly applied the standard of strict scrutiny, the toughest judicial assessment of whether a government’s action is constitutional. Although the court had previously supported race as a consideration in university admissions in an effort to promote diversity, today the court raised the bar stating that schools must prove that there are “no workable race-neutral alternatives” to achieve said diversity.
“The University must prove that the means chosen by the University to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal. On this point, the University receives no deference,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote.
“Strict scrutiny must not be strict in theory but feeble in fact.”
The decision is a small victory for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who claimed the University of Texas at Austin discriminated against her after her application was rejected in 2008 under the school’s race-conscious admission program.
“I am grateful to the justices for moving the nation closer to the day when a student’s race isn’t used at all in college admissions,” Fisher said in a statement.
The conservative-leaning decision could encourage more cases against race-conscious admissions elsewhere, but it has not yet ruled out the use of race in admissions decisions all together. Good thing for some, who still do not see the United States as being a post racial society.
“The majority of people under the age of five are now what we call ‘minority,’” wrote an anonymous Huffington Post user after the decision.
“What are the consequences if we don’t educate and train the adults of color amongst us now? They aren’t going away… They are going to be the people who have to care for YOU when you get old and need doctors and roads built. Be careful about the great disdain with which you are treating these young people. You better hope that your intentional under-investment and denigration of this population actually doesn’t come true. Too many whites are acting like petulant children about having to share the benefits of access they themselves take for granted.”
The thread continued with classic arguments for and against the decades old practice.
“Affirmative Action is racism,” declared a user named Steve.
“All collages use racism to select the balance of the students they want to for there school...[sic],” he said, garnering derisive comments about his spelling and his own need to apply to college.
The last time the court ruled on affirmative action in college admissions was in 2003, when the court ruled in Gutter v. Bollinger that a limited use of race by the University of Michigan Law School was acceptable in order to achieve diversity that benefits all students.
Meanwhile, some of the country’s elected officials have also weighed in on the debate.
“It’s shocking to think that we are still having to fight these same old fights to make sure that people of color and the disadvantaged are able to maintain a seat at the table and compete on equal footing like everyone else,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass.
Just like the ruling regarding the Voting Rights Act, we are seeing a disturbing trend from the high court where they are either ducking the opportunity to stand on the side of justice or punting the tough decisions for others to decide whether it be Congress or a lower court. The high court should be a place where the best ideals of our nation are reaffirmed but it’s becoming increasingly clear that today’s Supreme Court is more interested in pursuing or protecting a conservative right wing agenda working to undermine the rights and equal access for people of color in a broad range of areas. As this case moves back to the lower courts, it is critical that we keep working to make sure that young people of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities receive a fair shot at getting a good education. Affirmative action helps to ensure that this is the case and we must remain vigilant in working against any actions that might undermine the progress that has been made.”
Congresswoman Janice Hahn agrees.
“We must recommit to fostering equal opportunity for all young Americans trying to achieve academic excellence regardless of race or ethnic background.”
“Affirmative action always has to exist as long as a black child is not given the same opportunity as a rich child in Malibu,” said Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins.
“If you look at it, a lot of us come from the worst schools, in many cases with some of the worst teachers and the most poorly funded districts. It’s not fair for them to ask us to do what they would not consider doing, that is to give us the worst of everything and then ask us to compete with the best of everything.”