The U.S. Supreme Court will again tackle the issue of affirmative action where it pertains to college admissions. This case began in 2008 when Abigail Noel Fisher, a white student who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, sued the school for racial discrimination.
She argued that the school had violated her 14th Amendment right, which promises equal protection under the laws, with its admissions policies.
The University of Texas has been using a “Top Ten” plan for student admissions since 1997 when it was passed by the state legislature. That plan had the university accepting the top 10 percent of graduates from the state’s high schools. According to court documents when Fisher applied she was in the top 12 percent, but she said her grades “exceeded those of many of the admitted minority candidates.”
While the court’s decision won’t affect Fisher, who will soon graduate from Louisiana State University according to the Los Angeles Times, it will affect all minority students, including Native American students.
Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick told the Washington Post that affirmative action programs at many colleges and university’s across the country could be threatened if the high court rules in favor of Fisher.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the court has been closely split on the issue of affirmative action since 1978 when a 5-4 vote said schools may consider a student’s race as a “plus factor” when admitting new students.
In 2003, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote a majority opinion stating that the court approved of certain types of race-conscious admissions programs for a case involving the University of Michigan Law School.
Then in 2007, the court did away with affirmative action programs in public high schools, saying, “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”
The Associated Press reported that the case will be argued in the fall. Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself from the case. The Washington Post speculates her decision is likely due to the Justice Department’s participation in the University of Texas case in the lower courts when she served as solicitor general.