This week the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a case that could alter or even eliminate affirmative action in the United States. In the case of Fisher v. University of Texas, Abigail Fisher, a white student who has since graduated from Louisiana State University alleges she was discriminated against because she was white.
The Obama administration has filed a friend of the court brief urging the justices to keep affirmative action practices alive in college admissions. The administration joined more than 90 others who submitted briefs.
This isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has taken up the issue of affirmative action. In 2003 justices narrowly upheld the limited use of race in public university admissions policies in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger. The decision was five-to-four, with Justice Sandra Day O’Connor writing the majority opinion. O’Connor has since retired and been replaced by Justice Samuel Alito, who is more skeptical of the practice.
“I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong, and for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me,” Fisher said in an interview clip posted on the website of the Project on Fair Representation, a legal defense foundation that is paying for her legal defense team.
Lawyers for the University of Texas have argued that, “race is just one of many characteristics that form the mosaic presented by an applicant’s file.”
At issue is the “Top 10 percent law” passed In 1997 by the Texas legislature. The law requires that Texas high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class be automatically admitted to any Texas state university.
After the Grutter decision, Texas added a provision that allows schools to consider race among several other factors for admission. Fisher did not qualify for automatic admission, and was forced to compete with other non-top-10-percent state applicants. She said she was denied admission, even though her academic credentials exceeded those of some of the admitted minority candidates.