D.L. Chandler

Supreme Court Considering An End To Affirmative Action


Racial diversity in college may be a thing of the past if a 2003 Supreme Court ruling is overturned. That year, the Grutter v. Bollinger case made it so that college admission officials were to consider race before admitting students to a school or university. A new challenge to the ruling is underway, with a white student, Abigail Noel Fisher, alleging she was denied entry to the University of Texas because of her race.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the new case brought by Fisher. Putting affirmative action back into the forefront, a reversal of the decision would immediately effect the racial makeup of most public universities; making headway for an uptick in white and Asian admissions. A New York Times article released yesterday suggests that because the court justice pool is considerably more conservative than in 2003, this will make the challenge to keep the ruling tougher.

The Grutter v. Bollinger case, in simple terms, stated that colleges and universities could not rely on a system of points but instead could factor in race in order to insure racial diversity. Lee Bollinger, currently the president of Columbia University, was a defendant in the Grutter case while serving as president of the University of Michigan.

“I think it’s ominous,” Lee Bollinger told the Times of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Fisher case. “It threatens to undo several decades of effort within higher education to build a more integrated and just and educationally enriched environment.”

To be clear, the Grutter case was not a hard ruling, as it simply stated colleges and universities could allow for taking considerations based on race but it was not required of colleges to diversify their student body by law. It should also be noted that several states did not apply the Grutter ruling, including California. As a result of race not gaining some students a bit of headway, Blacks and Hispanics saw their numbers lowering on campuses across the state.

The Fisher case, by many reports, may not have the necessary strength to change the current admissions process but it will be a test to see if the conservative justices that sit on the court now will look to inject their own politics into the affirmative action debate.

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  • Tim

    Regardless of how this case plays out…isn’t now a good moment to revisit the idea and practice of affirmative action? Like, aren’t a lot of the principles a few decades old now? Are they still appropriate today? Do they go too far? Or not far enough? Would some other practice be more suitable to today’s needs? Or is the classic practice of affirmative action still the best way to do things?

    I don’t have answers to any of those questions. But I’d love to hear some smart people weigh in.

    I don’t, for a second, believe we’ve achieved a post-racial America. Supposing that is our goal–to build a society where the law is fair and equitable for all citizens–where are we in that journey? And what steps do we need to take next in order to get there?