University News

Affirmative action ruling unlikely to affect U. policy

Administrators lauded the justices’ labeling diversity as a ‘compelling state interest’

By
University News Editor
Sunday, June 30, 2013

University administrators reacted positively to Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a landmark affirmative action case, saying the decision is unlikely to influence Brown’s admission policies.

The Court remanded Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin back to the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for further review, ruling that the lower court had not applied a necessary “strict scrutiny” standard to the University of Texas’ use of race in admission decisions.

Writing for a 7-1 majority in Fisher, Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled that universities must show that “no workable race-neutral alternatives” to racial preferences exist in achieving the “compelling interest” of campus diversity.

While some legal analysts predicted before the decision that the Court’s ruling could pave the way for new limitations on affirmative action in higher education, Vice President and General Counsel Beverly Ledbetter said further challenges to affirmative action were always expected, regardless of the Court’s decision.

“Universities should be heartened by the fact that the Court did nothing to disturb the earlier ruling that diversity was a compelling state interest,” Ledbetter said. She added that “there is always going to be another door” that affirmative action opponents will use to challenge the policy.

“We are gratified that today’s Supreme Court action does not affect the University’s capacity to recruit, admit or engage a diverse, broadly representative community of learners,” said President Christina Paxson in a statement released Monday by the University.

The Court’s decision will not cause any “alarm” at the University regarding its current admission practices, Ledbetter said. “We examine our policies periodically,” she added.

University officials submitted a brief to the Supreme Court earlier this year supporting the  University of Texas’ use of race in admission decisions, The Herald previously reported. The suit was initiated in 2008 by white student Abigail Fisher, who claimed the college rejected her application because of her race.

Because the case is no longer at the national level, it is unlikely the University will submit another brief supporting the University of Texas, Ledbetter said. She added that though the University submitted its brief in conjunction with the seven other Ivy League institutions, each school has individual control over whether to submit a brief in the case.