Six months after hearing oral arguments in the case Fisher v. University of Texas for the second time, in a 4-3 decision, the United States Supreme Court has upheld the findings of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, ruling the University’s consideration of race in its admissions policies is constitutional under the Equal Protection Clause.
Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, saying “...although admissions officers can consider race as a positive feature of a minority student’s application, there is no dispute that race is but a ‘factor of a factor of a factor’ in the holistic-review calculus.”
The Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday in favor of the University essentially affirms the status quo at UT-Austin and in colleges across the country — meaning UT and other universities can continue to use race as a consideration under the holistic review admissions process, a ruling consistent with affirmative action cases in America’s history.
With the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the recusal of Justice Elena Kagan from the decision making process because of her role as Solicitor General when the lower court was making their decision, the case was left to the decision of seven justices. While it does follow earlier court precedents, the Court’s decision to uphold affirmative action policies in higher education institutions across the country was not deemed a positive decision by everyone.
“What is at stake is whether university administrators may justify systematic racial discrimination simply by asserting that such discrimination is necessary to achieve ‘the educational benefits of diversity,’ without explaining — much less proving — why the discrimination is needed or how the discriminatory plan is well crafted to serve its objectives,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in his dissent, joined by Justice Thomas and Justice Roberts. “Even though UT has never provided any coherent explanation for its asserted need to discriminate on the basis of race … the majority concludes that UT has met its heavy burden. This conclusion is remarkable—and remarkably wrong.”