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Affirmative Action on the Line in Supreme Court Case

October 15, 2012
Plain English Version

In 2003, the United States Supreme Court said colleges could use the race of an applicant in deciding who gets into the school. The policy is known as affirmative action.

Last week, the Court heard a repeat of the 2003 case. An applicant to the University of Texas brought the case. She said the school turned her down because she is white.

Each year the University of Texas admits the top ten percent of Texas high school graduates. They will be 75 percent of the school’s entering class. Since many high schools have a high enrollment of minority students, this policy makes sure that many black and Hispanic students will get into the university.

However, the university includes race as a factor in admitting the remaining 25 percent of its freshman class.

Four judges on the Supreme Court are known as conservatives. They are likely to vote against using affirmative action in making decisions about acceptance. Four judges are known as liberals. They are likely to support affirmative action. One judge, Anthony Kennedy, is known as the “swing judge” since it is not easy to know how he will decide a case. One of the liberal judges, Elena Kagan, is sitting out the case because she worked on the case for the Obama administration, which is defending the school.

The big question was why does Texas use race as a factor when its admissions policy already guarantees that a large number of minorities will be accepted?

There was no simple answer. In seeking diversity, the school said it looked for a wide range of qualities in applicants. It was not clear when race might be used as the deciding factor in admission.

The Court will decide by next June.

The Christian Science Monitor

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