The Supreme Court ruled this morning to uphold an affirmative action program at the University of Texas, determining that using race as a factor in the admissions process to achieve greater diversity is constitutional.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the opinion for the majority and was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
“The Court’s affirmance of the University’s admissions policy today does not necessarily mean the University may rely on that same policy without refinement,” Justice Kennedy wrote. “It is the university’s ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admissions policies.”
Justice Elena Kagan had recused herself from the case. Justice Samuel Alito dissented and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts; Justice Clarence Thomas wrote his own dissent.
“Something strange has happened since our prior decision in this case,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote. “This is nothing less than the plea for deference that we empathetically rejected in our prior decision. Today, however, the Court inexplicably grants that request.”
The Supreme Court previously reviewed plaintiff Abigail Fisher’s case in 2012 but sent it to be decided by a lower court. The lower court chose to uphold the university’s program so the Supreme Court reviewed the case again.
In 2008, Fisher alleged that the University of Texas-Austin denied her admission to the school over admitting minority students, who she alleged had lower grades than she.
Justice Antonin Scalia may have had an effect on the outcome. Prior to his death he did not hold back his disdain for affirmative action.
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to — to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower track school where they do well,” he said.
Chief Justice Roberts previously questioned what “perspective” a minority student could bring to a college classroom.