Courts reexamining affirmative action in Fisher v. University of Texas

On Feb. 21 the Supreme Court decided they will hear Fisher v. University of Texas this fall, a case that will look at the use of affirmative action in the college admissions process. According to The New York Times, Abigail Fisher, who applied to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008, is suing the university, claiming she was unjustly denied admission because she is a white student.

The case will challenge the Supreme Court's decision on the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger that one's race is an acceptable factor in an admissions decision in order for the university or college to achieve diversity, as stated in The New York Times.

The Washington Post stated that the Texas system of higher education uses the 10-percent law, which guarantees admission to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school's graduating class. At the University of Texas at Austin, this fills up anywhere from 75 to 80 percent of the available admissions seats. Minority applicants fill the remaining 20 percent.

Bill Powers, president of the University of Texas at Austin, released a video statement on Feb. 21 stating that the university uses a holistic approach to the admissions process, in order "to serve all of the populations of Texas," and it is in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling of Grutter v. Bollinger.

"We will continue to make those points as we continue with this litigation so we can best serve the people of Texas," Powers said.

According to legal analysis website Justia Verdict, because Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from Fisher v. University of Texas, the outcome of the case depends on whether Justice Anthony Kennedy will side with conservatives or liberals.

According to The New York Times, diversity in higher education could suffer if Fisher wins the case.

William Caren, associate vice president for enrollment services at Geneseo, said the result of the case could possibly have an effect on the admissions process regarding the use of affirmative action here, depending on the broadness of the Supreme Court's decision.

Should the Supreme Court declare the use of race as a factor in the admissions process as unconstitutional, Geneseo would seek advice from the State University of New York Office of General Counsel to make sure Geneseo is consistent with the law, he said. Caren said, however, he does not believe that the court will make such a broad decision.

Geneseo's admissions process incorporates affirmative action in order to create a more racially diverse student body, and Geneseo has yet to be challenged on an admissions decision on the basis of affirmative action.

"With my experience [at Geneseo], there has been broad support for affirmative action for the purpose of achieving greater diversity," Caren said.

Because Geneseo's rural location presents a challenge to attract a more diverse student body, Caren said he believes that the use of affirmative action in the admissions process is not unusual and is a good plus factor for minority students.

According to Caren, because nearly every college and university uses affirmative action to some degree, the Supreme Court's decision will not have more of an impact on Geneseo than it will on other colleges and universities across the country.