Blog: The Educated Reporter

What the Press Is Writing About Fisher v. Texas

Oral Arguments Coverage

Argument recap: Will Grutter be Reshaped?

“Affirmative action is alive but ailing, the idea of ‘critical mass’ to measure racial diversity is in very critical condition, and a nine-year-old precedent may have to be reshaped in order to survive.  Those were the dominant impressions at the close of a one-hour, nineteen-minute argument in the Supreme Court Wednesday. ” (SCOTUSblog)

Fisher v. University of Texas: Supreme Court Takes Up Affirmative Action

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote could be decisive, looked skeptically on Texas’ defense of the program. ‘What you’re saying is what counts is race above all,’ Kennedy said.” (Associated Press via The Huffington Post)

Affirmative Action’s Big Day: Issue Goes Before Supreme Court

“More than eight in ten African-American and Latino students who enrolled at the flagship campus in Austin last year were automatically admitted, according to university statistics. Even among the rest, both sides acknowledge that the use of race is modest.” (Associated Press via Fox News)

Supreme Court Justices Skeptical of Affirmative Action for College

But the hourlong argument gave little hint as to how far the opinion would go. In the past, Kennedy has agreed that universities need to seek racial diversity on campus, but he also said they should use “race neutral” policies whenever possible.” (Los Angeles Times)

Supreme Court Conservatives Press Affirmative Action Supporters to Defend Racial Preferences

“Joined by several of his fellow Republican appointees, Roberts pressed repeatedly for details on the university’s stated goal of enrolling a ‘critical mass’ of minority students. Justice Samuel Alito said flatly that he didn’t understand what the university meant, and Justice Antonin Scalia voiced repeated skepticism about the admissions preferences granted under what he termed “a very ambitious racial program” at the state’s flagship public university.” (McClatchy Papers via The News Tribune)

Key Question of Oral Arguments: Do You Want Grutter Overturned?

“‘Are you asking us to overrule Grutter?’ Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked Fisher’s attorney, Bert Rein, referring to Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 Supreme Court case that permits the narrow use of race in college admissions to achieve diversity.” (Diverse: Issues In Higher Education)

Supreme Court Divided Over Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Fisher’s attorney, Bert Rein, did not ask the court to overturn Grutter. He said UT had failed to narrowly tailor its examination of race and said it had not shown the necessity for racial considerations that Grutter demanded.” (The Washington Post) 

A Changed Court Revisits Affirmative Action in College Admissions

 “Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized the central question in the case. ‘At what point — when — do we stop deferring to the university’s judgment that race is still necessary?’ she asked. ‘That’s the bottom line of this case.’” (The New York Times)

Background Coverage

Friends of Affirmative Action

The case before the Supreme Court now is over whether the University of Texas is exceeding the right to consider race and ethnicity granted by the 2003 decision. The plaintiffs argue that because Texas uses a statewide “10 percent” plan – in which students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes are automatically admitted to the public college of their choice – the state’s flagship university can achieve a diverse student body without race-based policies. (Many Texas high schools have enrollments that are overwhelmingly made up of members of particular racial or ethnic groups, so the plan provides a steady stream of black and Latino students to UT Austin.)” (Inside Higher Ed)

UT Affirmative Action Case Divides Asian-Americans

“On one side, Fisher and her supporters, including the 80-20 National Asian American Educational Foundation, argue that the race-conscious admissions policies discriminate against qualified Asian-American students in favor of less-qualified African-American and Latino students.

On the other side, a coalition of more than 100 Asian-American groups has filed briefs backing the UT-Austin policy, saying it benefits Asian-American students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.” (Houston Chronicle) 

Critical mass” Key to Affirmative Action Case

“For all the wrenching debates about opportunity and fairness the affirmative action debate evokes, the outcome will likely come down to how the current justices fill out the answer to questions they began to answer in 2003: What is critical mass, and how far can a university go to achieve it? Generally, it’s the point where there’s enough diversity on campus to provide a rich educational environment. But beyond that, it’s a concept critics call maddeningly vague and supporters necessarily so. Is it enough for the student body to be diverse overall, or must all groups be well represented? What if there’s diversity in the student body, but not in most individual classrooms?” (Associated Press) 

High Court to Hear Arguments on UT’s Consideration of Race in Admissions

“The University of Texas fought at the U.S. Supreme Court in 1950 to defend a state law that barred the admission of black students – and lost. Sixty-two years later, the university is asking the high court to approve a race-conscious undergraduate admissions program that it contends is essential for pursuing the educational benefits of diversity.” (Austin American-Statesman) 

Supreme Court Is Flooded With Briefs Defending Race-Conscious Admissions

“[T]he Supreme Court had received more than 50 amicus curiae—or “friend of the court”—briefs backing the University of Texas’ consideration of race in undergraduate admission decisions. Among those who urged the court to leave the Texas policy intact were 17 U.S. senators, 66 U.S. representatives, 15 state governments, about 100 colleges that fear their efforts to promote diversity may be at risk, and relatives of the late Heman Marion Sweatt, whose lawsuit challenging his race-based exclusion from Texas’ law school led to a landmark 1950 Supreme Court ruling helping to usher in the desegregation of American higher education.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education) 

Supreme Court to Revisit Affirmative Action in Texas Case

“But the university chafed at the ‘top 10%’ law and said its success relied on continuing segregation in many high schools. Left out too were many talented minority students from integrated, highly competitive high schools.

So when the Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that universities may consider a minority student’s race as a ‘plus factor’  in admissions, UT officials added a new affirmative action policy to go along with the automatic admission rule. For these new students — about one-fourth of the freshman class — their race may play a role in who is admitted.” (Los Angeles Times)

Supreme Court: If Affirmative Action is Banned, What Happens at Colleges?

“One common alternative has been to give weight to applicants who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Another is to set up ties with K-12 schools to create a pipeline for and help prepare disadvantaged students. In three of the states, the top universities have also dropped ‘legacy’ preferences for children of alumni, which tend to benefit whites, the Century Foundation report notes.

The impact on underrepresented-minority enrollment at selective institutions has varied, with some still struggling with significant declines while others have achieved rates similar to those before the bans.” (The Christian Science Monitor)

The Unfinished Work of Affirmative Action

“It’s unclear how much of a difference Tedra Jacobs’ race made in the university’s decision to accept her. ‘What I think is the beauty of holistic review is that I can’t tell you what was the tipping point for her,’ says Kedra Ishop, the vice provost and director of admissions at UT-Austin. ‘Was it her low-income status? Was it her excelling in the classroom? Was it the robustness of her résumé? Was it the fact that she was African-American? It was all of those things.’” (The Hechinger Report/The Atlantic) 

2 Court Battles on Affirmative Action Could Affect Admissions at Michigan Schools

“Officials and experts say U-M and the rest of the state’s public universities are paying much more attention to a court case currently awaiting a decision in the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals over Proposition 2. That measure, passed by Michigan voters in 2006, erased U-M’s court victory by banning the state’s universities and other public institutions from considering an applicant’s minority status or gender in their admissions or hiring processes.

But Michigan’s universities should stay alert to what’s happening, said MSU law professor Phillip Pucillo. That’s because if Proposal 2 is overturned by the federal appeals court, the University of Texas case will become the new reality.” (Detroit Free Press) 

 Photo source: Flickr/Mark Fischer