Race-based admissions faces ‘strict scrutiny’

The U.S. Supreme Court didn’t reject the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions plan outright, as many had expected. However, justices voted 7 to 1 to send the Fisher ase back to a lower court for “strict scrutiny” of whether the plan is justified.

“A university must make a showing that its plan is narrowly tailored to achieve the only interest that this Court has approved in this context: the benefits of a student body diversity that ‘encompasses a . . . broad array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element,’ ” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

In 2003, a divided court in Grutter v. Bollinger approved a limited use of race by the University of Michigan Law School to achieve a “critical mass” of diversity, notes the Washington Post.

The University of Texas at Austin . . . admits about 75 percent of its freshmen based on their graduation rankings from Texas high schools. Since many of the state’s high schools are dominated by one race or ethnicity, this has created a diverse applicant pool.

For the remaining slots, it uses a “holistic” evaluation of applicants that includes race as one of many factors.

The case is named for Abigail Fisher, a white student who didn’t qualify for automatic admission. She argued “the attempts to boost the number of African American and Hispanic students cost her a spot in the freshman class of 2008.” She went instead to Louisiana State University (no doubt paying higher out-of-state tuition) and earned a bachelor’s degree.

Strict scrutiny just got a lot stricter, writes Kirk Kolbo, who argued against UM’s race-conscious affirmative action plan in Grutter, on Powerline.

. . . the Court’s opinion in Fisher goes into painstaking detail (more than five pages are devoted to the issue) about how the Fifth Circuit should go about applying strict scrutiny after the remand.

. . . Strict scrutiny requires both a “compelling interest” justifying the use of race as a factor in decision-making, and means of implementing that interest that are “narrowly tailored” to achieving it.

. . .  Fisher states that a university “receives no deference” on the question of whether the “means chosen . . . to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal.”

. . . Perhaps the strongest point in Fisher is the statement that “[t]he reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.” (emphasis added).

It will be much harder for racial preferences to pass muster, Kolbo predicts.

About Joanne


  1. Just what are the educational benefits of diversity?

    • Mark Roulo says:

      Do you *really* think you would learn physics, math, and chemistry as well if the class didn’t include people with different skin colors, eye shapes, and first languages?


      On a more serious note, I think the reason given (when one is given at all … today it is mostly assumed) is that when one is discussing things like literature or history the different perspectives are valuable. For example, a black person whose parents grew up in the segregates south might look at things like, say, affirmative action, differently than a white person who grew up in Minnesota. Even a white person whose parents grew up in the south might look at affirmative action differently than a white person who grew up in Minnesota. Poor people might be in a better position to defend a social safety net than folks who never knew anyone on welfare/food stamps/whatever.


      In many respects, this is the same basic argument for foreign travel and studying abroad: the different perspective is broadening.


      I am unaware of any actual studies attempting to show this benefit quantitatively, however.

      • “Diversity” has become the fall back position as affirmative action’s lost its public support.

        If there were any educational value in racial quotas proponents would have sought out the data to support their beliefs. As it is, those who support race-based quotas under the banner of “diversity” support their beliefs by insinuating – where they don’t simply denounce – those opposed are racists.

      • stacy in nj says:

        Or, poor people might be able to articulate why a “social safety net” is culturally destructive. Just saying.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        A black person who grew up in the segregated south would be in the class to find something to do because he’s retired.
        A low income person in the class might be from the unlucky working-their-butts-off poor living next door to folks who happily game the system.
        Then what?

  2. stacy in nj says:

    This whole thing leads to admissions based on socio-economics rather than race. And, that’s a good thing.