The US Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments [day call, PDF] Wednesday on the use of racial preference in undergraduate university admissions. In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin [transcript, PDF] the court must decide whether the University of Texas at Austin (UT) may continue considering race as part of its admission criteria. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] last year that it could. The Supreme Court had remanded the case [JURIST report] to the appeals court in 2013 after finding that the court did not hold UT to the demanding burden of strict scrutiny articulated in Grutter v. Bollinger [opinion; JURIST symposium] and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke [opinion]. On remand, the Fifth Circuit found that UT’s affirmative action [JURIST backgrounder] policy was narrowly tailored to achieve the goal of diversity.
Petitioner Abigail Noel Fisher, a Caucasian student, was denied undergraduate admission to UT in 2008 and subsequently challenged the admissions policy, which allows the university to consider race and ethnicity during admissions processing. The Fifth Circuit previously ruled in 2011 that the policy did not violate [JURIST report] Fisher’s rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment and federal civil rights statutes, affirming a lower court decision that granted summary judgment to UT.