Supreme Court may have hamstrung schools on affirmative action

June 25, 2013 9:00 AM

Linda P. Campbell
lcampbe4@tulane.edu

Tulane Law School professor Stephen Griffin says the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on affirmative action Monday (June 24) in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case looks narrow but might have set a standard universities will find difficult to meet.

Supreme Court building by Franz_Jantzen

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a reverse-discrimination suit back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans for another look using a stricter standard. (Photo by Franz Jantzen)


“The Court’s decision was a narrow one that lower court judges might nevertheless interpret broadly as a sign that time is up for affirmative action,” Griffin says.
 
In a 7-1 decision, the court sent a reverse-discrimination suit back to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans for another look using a stricter standard. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, who is white, had argued that the University of Texas wrongly rejected her application and shouldn’t be able to take race into account in admission decisions. The 5th Circuit had ruled against her, but now will have to reconsider. Fisher subsequently graduated from Louisiana State University.

“The decision was narrow in that the court left in place all of the decisions allowing affirmative action on the grounds of race and did not decide the merits of the Texas case, leaving that to the 5th Circuit,” Griffin says.
 
“But it could be read broadly because the court made it very clear that the burden is on universities not only to justify their policies under the rigorous standard known as ‘strict scrutiny,’ but also to show that there are no other ‘workable’ race-neutral alternatives.  This may be a difficult standard for universities to meet.”
 
Linda P. Campbell is the director of communications at the Tulane Law School.

Citation information:

Page accessed: Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Page URL: http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/062513_court.cfm

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu