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Friday, September 28, 2012

Supreme Court may limit use of race in college admissions




AUSTIN — More than a half-century after the Supreme Court ordered theUniversity of Texas to admit a black man to its law school, the sprawling live-oak-and-limestone campus is again the site of a monumental battle over the use of race in university admissions.
But this time the challenge comes from a white woman. Abigail Fisher says the color of her skin cost her a spot in the 2008 freshman class at the university she had longed to attend since she was a child.
Under the banner of racial diversity, Fisher contends, the UT admissions process — which considers race as a factor in choosing one quarter of its students — unfairly favors African Americans and Hispanics at the expense of whites and Asian Americans.
Arguments in the case are scheduled for next month, and the decision could be one of the most important and revealing of the Supreme Court’s term that begins Monday.
The court since 1978 has recognized that promoting diversity on the nation’s campuses allows a limited consideration of race that normally the Constitution would not countenance.
It has imposed restrictions — no quotas, no racial balancing to match demographics, no automatic boost for an applicant because of minority status. But as recently as 2003, the justices reaffirmed the view that “student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.”
But the court has changed dramatically since then, with a conservative majority now highly skeptical of — even hostile to — racial preferences. The justice most likely to decide the case for the divided court — Anthony M. Kennedy — has agreed in principle that diversity is important but has never voted to approve an affirmative action plan.

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