The US Supreme Court agreed last week to hear whether University of Texas’ use of race in their admissions process is constitutional. The Court’s decision to hear the case adds to a heavy and what will prove a controversial docket of cases. The Court has agreed to hear cases on President Obama’s healthcare reform, illegal immigration, and voting rights, among others.
The case arose when a graduate of a Texas area high school sued the U. of Texas after her application for admission was rejected in 2008. U. of Texas confirms it uses race as one of the many factors in deciding applications to achieve its goal of creating a diverse campus. The plaintiff was eventually accepted to LSU and is scheduled to graduate from there this May. This raises the legal question of whether she has standing to even file suit in the first place since the Court’s decision will have no effect on where she will go to college and essentially renders the case moot. The larger constitutional question of using a race as part of admissions is probably the main reason the Court decided to take this case.
Associate Justice Elena Kagan will abstain from the case since she was briefed on it during her time as US Solicitor General, leaving open the possibility of a 4-4 split (I highly doubt it). The justices last decided on the question of race as a factor in college admissions in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger, where a prospective student challenged University of Michigan’s law school’s affirmative action policy. The Court held that using race, as one of many factors, which favored minority applicants was constitutional as Michigan had a compelling interest in promoting diversity. Using race to achieve diversity in schools was also the topic in a controversial 2007 decision: Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (the cases were decided as one since both had the same legal question). In both cases, the Court ruled that neither school district could use race as a criteria to achieve diversity in its schools.
It will be interesting to see how the Court will rule in the Texas case, which could have ramifications for colleges and universities across the country and what factor, if any, race plays in their quest to create a diverse campus.
Demetri Lales sheds more light on this case and its potential ramifications here.