Affirmative Action: Post Fisher v. UT Guidance

Monday, Nov 4, 2013


In late September 2013 the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued guidance to postsecondary institutions regarding the voluntary use of race to achieve diversity in higher education, following the Supreme Court’s June, 2013 ruling in Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, a case in which a white woman, Abigail Fisher, alleged that she was discriminated against on the basis of race, when she was denied admission to the University of Texas’ flagship campus.

Following precedent, including the seminal 2003 case of Gruter v. Bollinger, the Court upheld the time-honored “strict scrutiny” Constitutional standard, meaning that the educational institution must demonstrate that considering the race of applicants seeking admissions is narrowly tailored to meet the well-recognized “compelling interest” in diversity in higher education, including that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice to reach this goal.

And, the high Court found that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had erroneously deferred to the University of Texas in assessing whether UT’s admissions program was narrowly tailored to attain a diverse student body, instead of itself (properly) applying the legal standard to the facts of the case, and remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit for further proceedings.

SACNAS News Summer/Fall 2012, Volume 15, No. 1 featured an in-depth article on the Fisher case, “Affirmative Action: At The Intersection of Politics & Education,” by Patty Talahongva & Ruth Hopkins, published before the Court heard the Fisher case and rendered its opinion.

Admissions policies at institutions of higher education are of paramount importance to the SACNAS communities, as we work to diversify the face of science in our nation.

SACNAS thus invites and encourages you to carefully read the linked guidance and other documents from the Departments of Education and Justice, and to share them with your networks, to ensure that higher education institutions are fully aware of the tools available to them in achieving a diverse student body.

Related Resources

Joint letter from U.S. Department of Justice & U.S. Department of Education

New guidance about Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin