WASHINGTON - On June 23 the U.S. Supreme Court approved of the University of Texas employing affirmative action when considering admissions, prompting a strong reaction from the state’s chief lawyer.
“Less than 10 years ago, the Supreme Court said that ‘[t]he way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.’ Sadly, the Court today has departed from that guiding principle,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement.
“The University of Texas is one of the finest educational institutions in the world. The opportunities it offers should be available to all students based on their merit, not the color of their skin.”
The case stems from litigation brought by Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission in 2008.
She alleged that the University’s consideration of race as part of its holistic-review process disadvantaged her and other Caucasian applicants, violating her constitutional rights.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled that students applying to (UT) can be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity,” Fisher said in a statement.
“I hope that the nation will one day move beyond affirmative action.”
Under Texas’ Top Ten Percent Law, UT offers admission to any students who graduate from a state high school in the top 10 percent of their class.
Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class.
UT fills the remainder of its incoming freshman class, some 25 percent, by combining an applicant’s “Academic Index”—the student’s SAT score and high school academic performance—with the applicant’s “Personal Achievement Index,” a holistic review containing numerous factors, including race, according to the high court’s opinion.
In a 4-3 decision, justices found UT’s consideration of race was a “factor of a factor of a factor,” meeting the court’s tight precedents.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s majority opinion “it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.”
Justice Samuel Alito Jr., Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas dissented.
“What is at stake is whether university administrators may justify systematic racial discrimination simply by asserting that such discrimination is necessary to achieve ‘the educational benefits of diversity,’ without explaining—much less proving—why the discrimination is needed or how the discriminatory plan is well crafted to serve its objectives,” writes Alito in his dissent.
“Even though UT has never provided any coherent explanation for its asserted need to discriminate on the basis of race, and even though UT’s position relies on a series of unsupported and noxious racial assumptions, the majority concludes that UT has met its heavy burden.
“This conclusion is remarkable—and remarkably wrong.”