Educators debate impact of ruling on affirmative action

“Nowhere in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence does the word ‘diversity’ appear,” a group of Texas faculty members state in a brief supporting the plaintiff, 22-year-old Abigail Fisher. “There is no constitutional basis for the courts, let alone a state university, to engage in such a radical restructuring of America, allocating education, jobs and contracts based on race.”

Lawyers representing higher education groups and universities worried Wednesday that the Supreme Court may be headed toward a reversal on affirmative action.

Charles Sims, who filed a brief supporting the University of Texas’ use of racial preferences on behalf of 36 small liberal arts colleges, said Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito — the two Republican nominees not on the court when the last affirmative action case was decided — seemed to reject using race in admissions decisions.

“The hostility they exhibited toward the efforts of Texas to deal with a very complex problem is disheartening,” Sims said.

Others were less despondent but concerned nonetheless with the upheaval that could follow a decision in the spring to toss out racial preferences.

Ada Meloy, general counsel for the American Council on Education, said college and university officials hope they won’t have to revisit their admissions policies so soon after the court’s 2003 ruling involving the University of Michigan. That decision allows race to be considered as one of many factors in admission.

Some educators argued against racial preferences to protect the rights of those who they say are victims of discrimination when universities ignore their superior qualifications.


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