Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said courts must give universities “considerable deference” in “defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission,” reports the New York Times.
In a passionate dissent, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. called the ruling “affirmative action gone berserk” and “simply wrong.”
“We are told that a program that tends to admit poor and disadvantaged minority students is inadequate because it does not work to the advantage of those who are more fortunate,” wrote Alito.
Under the Top 10 Percent program, top graduates at every high school in the state — including many high-minority, high-poverty schools — are guaranteed admission to any state university. That’s increased the number of Latino and black students.
But, unlike most other Texas universities, UT-Austin uses race and ethnicity, and other factors, to fill the remaining seats. The beneficiaries tend to be middle-class blacks and Latinos at integrated high schools.
The Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg said the decision will “give universities more leeway to simply use race as a way to get racial diversity and ignore economically disadvantaged students.”
Alito also noted discrimination against Asian-Americans, who need much higher SAT scores to get a place at UT-Austin. That undercuts the diversity argument, writes Hans Bader. There are fewer Asian-Americans than Latinos at UT-Austin.
As the Asian American Legal Foundation noted, the university’s policy reflected the untenable and racist assumption that “Asian Americans are not worth as much as Hispanics in promoting ‘cross-racial understanding,’ breaking down ‘racial stereotypes,’ and enabling students to ‘better understand persons of different races.’”
Texas A&M more than doubled the percentage of black and Latino students without affirmative action, notes the Texas Tribune. At both A&M and UT-Austin, blacks and Latinos make up 23 percent of enrollment.
A&M strengthened its recruiting at high-minority schools and improved financial aid.