U.S. Supreme Court Reaffirms the Value of Diversity in Higher Education

Court sends the case back to appeals court for closer scrutiny

Media Contact: Candice Francis / Communications Director, LCCR /  415.543.9697 x216 / cfrancis@lccr.com
SAN FRANCISCO – Today, in a much awaited decision, the U.S. Supreme Court maintained the status quo and reaffirmed the constitutionality of considering race and ethnicity as one of many factors in university admissions, to help achieve a diverse student body. In a 7-1 ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas, the Court reaffirmed that universities have a compelling interest in the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body and may consider racial and ethnic diversity as one factor among many in a carefully crafted admissions policy. However, because the majority found that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did not use the correct legal standard in deciding whether the University of Texas’s policy was constitutional, it sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration.
In review of this ruling, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), a proven champion for fair access and equity in education, finds this decision upholds the value of diversity in higher education.
“Today’s decision reinforces the need for university officials to implement narrowly tailored measures to achieve the diversity that educators, military leaders, and business owners have said time and time again is imperative to our future success as a country in this increasingly global economy,” said LCCR Legal Director Oren Sellstrom. “By reaffirming their 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, which allowed for reasonable consideration of race in admissions policies, the court has acknowledged that diversity in education benefits all of us.”
LCCR, in collaboration with pro bono partner Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, filed an amicus brief on behalf of 28 University of California (UC) student organizations. The brief highlighted dramatic decline in racial diversity at the University of California in the fifteen years following the passage of Proposition 209, the state constitutional amendment that prohibits the consideration of race in public education, employment and contracting.
“We see the glass as half-full and find relief that by affirming the constitutionality of diversity policies, the Court agrees that a high-quality education, fostered by diversity, is in the national interest and crucial to America’s future,” said Kimberly Thomas Rapp, Executive Director. “We are also pleased that in her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged that affirmative action is a policy aimed to mitigate centuries of unequal treatment under the law.”
The Lawyers’ Committee, will continue to work with education leaders, policymakers, the business community, the faith community, and others who stand in support of affirmative action to see that qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds continue to receive fair consideration and equal opportunity to attend all of our nation’s colleges and universities.