Inside the Supreme Court’s affirmative action case

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Supreme Court's ruling on the use of racial preferences in college admissions left many questions unanswered: Is the University of Texas' admissions policy that uses race as a factor constitutional? And do colleges around the country need to change how they use racial preferences to achieve a diverse student body?

Those and other questions will have to wait, at least until the next time the court considers an affirmative action case.

But the ruling was nonetheless significant. On the one hand, it validated earlier court rulings that racial diversity is a "compelling state interest" and that colleges may use racial preferences to achieve it. However, the justices also sent a sharp reminder to higher education. The 7-1 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, showed virtually the entire court believes that colleges must, at the very least, meet a high bar in demonstrating such preferences are absolutely necessary, and that race-neutral methods of enrolling a diverse student body won't create such a student body on their own.

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