Affirmative action… again
The Supreme Court has heard from Abigail Fisher before. Now, the Court will hear from her again. As previously summarized by TeenJury, Ms. Fisher brought suit against the University of Texas for denying her admission in 2008. She claimed that she was discriminated against because of her race. Ms. Fisher is white. The University of Texas admits all state residents who graduate in the top 10% of their classes. Below that level, the school takes into account numerous factors, including leadership, other demonstrated talents, and race. Ms. Fisher’s GPA and standardized testing were higher than many other students who were accepted. She believes that racial preferences prevented her from gaining admission. A U.S. District Court judge and Fifth Circuit panel upheld the process that the university uses and held that it is not in conflict with Grutter v Bollinger. In the words of former Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Conner, a school’s “narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.” A school may carefully use race as one of many factors during the admission process, if they believe that racial diversity is beneficial to all students. In October of 2012, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v University of Texas. In June of 2013, the Court ruled 7-1 to return the case to the Fifth Circuit Court and have them re-examine Ms. Fisher’s complaints with a higher level of scrutiny. However, the Fifth Circuit again heard oral arguments and came to the same verdict: the University of Texas may continue to use race as part of their admissions process. Ms. Fisher again appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Today, the Court agreed to hear her case, for the second time. Interestingly, Justce Kagan did not take part in the 2012 Supreme Court case, recusing herself presumably because she took part in its preparations as Solicitor General. It is assumed that she will recuse herself this fall. Since the Court has narrowed the use of affirmative action, yet confusion persists, it suggests that the justices may seek a more definitive resolution. The conservatives on the bench have called for the complete elimination of affirmative action in the past. After hearing that the Court will again hear her appeal, Ms. Fisher commented, “I hope the justices will rule that UT is not allowed to treat undergraduate applicants differently because of their race or ethnicity.” Since she first filed her complaint, Ms. Fisher has graduated from Louisiana State University.