Statement From Senator West on Fisher V. University of Texas

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 @ 9:50PM

In 2008, Abigail Fisher was rejected by the University of Texas at Austin when she applied for admission.  Fisher later sued the University of Texas (Fisher v. University of Texas), alleging that the university’s use of race in its admissions process violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.  Her case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-1, to remand the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court to determine whether the University of Texas’ use of race in their admissions process is necessary to “achieve the education benefits of diversity.”

This ruling in effect, failed to make a firm decision regarding the future of affirmative action.  In Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion, he wrote that the Fifth Circuit failed to correctly ‘strictly scrutinize’ UT’s use in their admissions process.  For now, UT’s admission policy stands.

Depending on how the Fifth Circuit evaluates UT’s use of race, the Supreme Court may rule on Fisher’s case in the future to determine whether race is a compelling state interest that should be protected.  However, there is another case (Schuette v Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action), out of Michigan, which will be on the Supreme Court’s fall docket, arguing the same violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

It is clear that the Supreme Court dodged the issue, while at the same time hinting at its thinking on the future of the policy.  I believe the country needs a clear pronouncement from the Supreme Court on affirmative action.  Affirmative action advocates must refocus their efforts on finding race neutral solutions to ensure diversity continues even if the policy changes.

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