In the interest of promoting diversity, the Obama administration is siding with the University of Texas in an affirmative action case headed to the Supreme Court this fall.
The question before the court, based on a white student, Abigail Fisher, who said she was denied admission to Texas’ largest university because of her race in 2008, is whether UT’s use of race as one of many diversity considerations in a “holistic” admissions process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The clause makes it unconstitutional to “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” and Fisher’s attorneys argue she was treated differently because of her race.
UT maintains its admissions policies comply with previous court rulings on race in admissions, and though Fisher’s attorneys once argued the university’s policies do not comply, they now argue that if the policies comply, the court’s ruling should be overturned.
In a brief filed with the court Aug. 13, the solicitor general, attorneys general, and general counsels of the United States explained the nation’s interest in the case and its interpretation of existing law. The nation’s interest in the case stems from the court’s earlier recognition that institutes of higher education have a “compelling interest” in attaining a diverse student body, and such a diverse student body is also in the best interest of the military and federal agencies.
The United States believes UT’s consideration of race in admissions is constitutional, “necessary to preserve the university’s compelling interests,” and “narrowly tailored” to achieve the benefits of a diverse student body—language used by the court in the affirmative action case in 2003 that set the precedent for this case.
Follow Anna Schumann on Twitter at @ASchumannCMN.