Last week, the United States Supreme Court decided that it would uphold the affirmative action program at the University of Texas, which was recently challenged in a court case. The 4-3 decision certainly helps make the educational community feel more relaxed, as affirmative action is a necessary program for schools’ diversity around the country. This case marks the second time that Abigail Noel Fisher, who did not gain acceptance to the University of Texas in 2008, claimed that she was denied entry to the school because of her race. Fisher is white.
The University of North Carolina and Harvard are both currently weathering similar cases, much to the chagrin of academics. This means that colleges around the country must continue to demonstrate why their commitment to diversity matters, and why affirmative action programs still matter.
Fisher argued specifically that she did not get into the school because it discriminated against her as a white person; she also argued that students of color with the same credentials she has were accepted into the school, while she was denied entry. The first time Fisher made these claims, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the program’s constitutionality, though the Supreme Court sent the case back to them with new instructions for more stringent scrutiny.
“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,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, who also wrote that diversity is one of those “qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.”
Justice Clarence Thomas, however, dissented with Kennedy’s point of view, offering a dissent similar to others he has made on this topic, in which he argues that race-related admissions programs are not permitted by the U.S. Constitution.
“The Constitution abhors classifications based on race because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all,” Thomas wrote, quoting a previous sentiment.
Other universities watched the case with bated breath: a dismantling of UT’s affirmative action program could cause a ripple effect at other universities, which could cause a whole host of other problems regarding race and higher education acceptances.
“I’m pleased that the Supreme Court upheld the basic notion that diversity is an important value in our society,” said President Obama. “We are not a country that guarantees equal outcomes, but we do strive to provide an equal shot to everybody.”