The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday morning in a highly watched, controversial affirmative action case that could forever change race-based college admissions and may reverberate far beyond the campus.
The justices will decide whether universities can continue to weigh skin color when deciding whom to admit, a common practice but one that has drawn fire from critics who claim it amounts to reverse discrimination against white students. The suit was brought by one such white student, Abigail Fisher, who was denied entry to the University of Texas while minority students with lesser grades were taken above her solely because of race, the suit alleges in part.
“My parents always taught me that it is wrong to discriminate. I hope the Supreme Court will decide that all future University of Texas applicants will compete without their race or ethnicity used in the school’s admissions process,” Ms. Fisher said in a statement following the arguments. The statement was provided through her legal counsel, the Virginia-based Project on Fair Representation.
The case has touched off new debates about the future of affirmative action in the U.S. Observers expect the court to clarify a 2003 ruling that said colleges can continue to use race as one factor during admissions but must avoid specific racial “quotas.” But that decision, an attempt to find middle ground between quotas and the elimination of race consideration, has only caused more confusion about what higher education institutions can and cannot do.
At the University of Texas, students in the top 10 percent of their high school class are automatically admitted. The remaining spots are awarded on a variety of factors, including race.
The justices are expected to rule on the case next spring.