Supreme Court to Reconsider Affirmative Action in Higher Education
Washington, D.C. - A case challenging the use of racial preferences in public college and university admissions was accepted today by the U.S. Supreme Court. Project 21, the black leadership network, joined a legal brief that urged the Court to take the case.
"I'm pleased to see the Supreme Court agree to hear this case," said Project 21 spokesman Horace Cooper, who previously taught at the George Mason University School of Law in Virginia. "Despite the intent of the framers, the adoption of the 14th amendment and the admonition of Martin Luther King, we've reached the 21st century and we are still having arguments over whether it's legitimate to consider race in school admissions. The answer should be a resounding no, and I'm hopeful that the Supreme Court rules accordingly."
Project 21 joined an amicus curiae ("friend of the court") submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The brief was written by the Pacific Legal Foundation and, in addition to Project 21, has been joined by the Center for Equal Opportunity, American Civil Rights Foundation and National Association of Scholars.
In the case of Fisher v. Texas, plaintiff Abigail Fisher -- who is white -- claims that racial preferences in the University of Texas at Austin enrollment process in 2008 caused her to be rejected in favor of lesser-qualified candidates who are racial minorities. Her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court seeks to determine if UT's race-based admissions policy presents a "compelling, otherwise unsatisfied, government interest and narrow tailoring to advance their interest" as it pertains to the equal protection guarantee of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Race-based admissions were outlawed in Texas in 1996 by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Hopwood decision. Afterward, in 1997, Texas legislators passed legislation signed by then-Governor George W. Bush that granted automatic public college and university admission to high school students in the top ten percent of their graduating classes. This law is credited with increasing black and Hispanic enrollment above pre-Hopwood levels. On June 23, 2003, however, the day the U.S. Supreme Court cited a "compelling state interest" for certain classroom diversity standards in its ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, UT officials announced they would re-introduce racial considerations into the application process.
"The fact that we as a nation are still debating the need for affirmative action tells us that it has not worked. There can only be equal opportunity if we all start from the same starting line," said Project 21 spokeswoman Shelby Emmett. "Affirmative action should be abolished in favor of holding schools accountable at the K-12 level. Black students know they are capable and just as smart as anyone else. It is time lawmakers understand that and demand accountability. Affirmative action may put us ten steps ahead, but if we don't have skills we can never win a race on merits alone."
The brief Project 21 joined stated that the lower court decisions in this case conflict with previous U.S. Supreme Court interpretations because they interpret public universities as always having a compelling interest to promote "racial diversity" and are not required to give "serious, good faith consideration to less restrictive race-neutral policies." "Review is crucial," the brief argues, "to restore meaningful limits on government's authority to discriminate based on race."
Project 21 spokesman Bob Parks added: "While many in college think affirmative action is proper policy, wait until they hit the work force in the real world and discover how many believe they didn't get the job because they deserved it but because someone thought hiring them was the right thing to do."
Fisher v. Texas will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court during the Court's next term, which begins in October.
"By implying that blacks cannot attain access to educational opportunities on their own academic merit, affirmative action has been -- and continues to be -- a weight around the neck of every student and institution in this country," said Project 21 spokeswoman Stacy Washington. "With a black man sitting in the highest office in the land, put there by the votes of the white majority, the time to end the fallacy of affirmative action is now."
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives since 1992, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).