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June 23, 2016

June 23, 2016 | News Releases on

Supreme Court Rules on Affirmative Action – 9 Things You Should Know

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, rebuffed a challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s use of race in its undergraduate admissions decisions. The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a white Texas resident, who sued UT-Austin after she was denied admission arguing that the school discriminated against her on the basis of race.

Heritage legal fellows Elizabeth Slattery and Hans von Spakovsky say this decision “is a loss for advocates of a truly colorblind society, a betrayal of our core beliefs as Americans” not only is it a betrayal of our beliefs but they also argue that this decision is “fundamentally unfair to students.”

Below are seven things you should know about Fisher v. University of Texas:

  1. This case deals with whether it is constitutional for the university to discriminate on the basis of race in its undergraduate admissions decisions.

  2. Schools are permitted to use race in admissions if it is narrowly tailored to further compelling governmental interests but schools must first pursue a “serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives that will achieve the diversity the university seeks.”

  3. Texas adopted a plan in the mid-1990s that automatically admitted Texas students in the top 10 percent of their high school class to all state-funded universities.

  4. Following a 2003 Supreme Court decision that authorized schools to consider race or ethnicity as a “plus factor,” the university began subjecting applicants for the remaining spots to a “holistic review” that included preferences for certain racial minorities.

  5. The university argued that it needed to consider the race of applicants for the seats not filled by Top 10 Percent admittees to advance its interest in “qualitative diversity.”

  6. The university claimed that the Top 10 Percent plan admits “too many” minority students from majority-minority schools—apparently they don’t provide the “right” kind of diversity, according to UT-Austin admissions officials.

  7. Other lawsuits are currently pending in federal district courts that challenge the racially discriminatory admissions policies of Harvard and the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

  8. By finding that there is an educational value in having diversity in a classroom, the decision affirms the principle that Americans are born with an “ascribed status,” or knowledge or values, that comes with membership in a group, rather than the “achieved status” or knowledge or values, that we earn individually. The latter is at the center of the Founders’ vision for America and of liberal democracy in general.

  9. By furthering the practice of affirmative action, the Court also continues to incentivize the “checking the box” mentality and further fragments America, rather than promote the E Pluribus Unum ethos.

More analysis on this case is available HERE.

About the Author

Justin Posey Communications Manager, Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity and Legal Studies
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