The Washington Post asked me to write a commentary in response to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, in which the court upheld the university’s use of race-based affirmative action. This was a historic decision for the Supreme Court, and an important one for higher education institutions across the country. As someone who has done research over the last two decades on college access and success for underrepresented students, I was extremely pleased to see the court affirm the importance of allowing colleges and universities to use the tools they need to create a diverse class of students.
As in many years recently, the United States Supreme Court waited until the last week of its term to issue decisions in a number of highly-visible cases. It has been one of those weeks when, if I was at my desk, I found myself with a browser tab open to the New York Times homepage, and I was constantly refreshing my screen to see if there were any updates. One of these cases relates directly to education; another affects many of the members of our College of Education community.
The most relevant case for many of us in education was the decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case challenging the University of Texas’s use of affirmative action in undergraduate admissions. Fisher was the first major case involving affirmative action in higher education since the Court upheld its use in Grutter v. Bollinger 10 years ago. Abigail Fisher, a white woman, applied for admission to the U. of Texas in 2008 and was denied admission. She sued the university, claiming that its use of race in its admissions process disadvantaged her and was a major factor in being denied admission. She and her lawyers claimed that the use of race in this fashion violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Continue reading “A big week in the Supreme Court”