Throughout the past week or two, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has been working on a case that has produced much media coverage nationwide and will be followed closely by many across the country. The nine Supreme Court justices, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, began the trial a few weeks ago in early October. Affirmative action — needless to say an ever-present topic these days in the media and especially for students and schools — was the matter with the case known as Fisher vs. University of Texas. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, said that the University of Texas did not accept her as a student because the school considers race a part of the admissions process among other things such as awards, activities applicants have participated in, and their economic situations. Arguments for each side began on Wednesday, Oct. 10 at the Supreme Court Building in Washington, D.C.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg reported that “Fisher, a white student who did not make the cut at the university, contends that the university’s consideration of race is unconstitutional. She said she was taught from when she was very young that ‘any kind of discrimination was wrong’ and questions the example the university sets by considering race as a factor in admissions.”
The key phrase in the case, which will definitely have some effect in the way the Supreme Court Justices vote, is in “critical mass” of minority students that the University of Texas intended to reach said goal. However, the wording of the phrase is not entirely clear so there was much back-and-forth discussion of it.
Suffolk class of 2016 Senator Matthew Gifford said he believes “that there is a sort of discrimination in [the] college processes and businesses, and if in those cases can be used as a very good thing. However, I believe we are coming to a time in the United States where someone’s work ethics, grades, and professional attitude truly outshine their ethnicity.”
Gifford, a Political Science major, went on to explain that “we should begin to start toning down the concept of affirmative action and just start seeing students as students, and people as people; and focus on what makes them the people they are in these processes.”
It seems, based on talking during the trial when Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was grilling Fisher’s lawyer Bert Rein about low minority enrollment at the University of Texas and when the more conservative justices asked the university’s lawyer, Gregory Garre, heated questions about race in the admissions procedure, that several of the justices have begun considering each side and trying to determine the best result. Like almost all cases that are brought to the Supreme Court, Fisher vs. University of Texas is once again bringing back the subject of affirmative action. Though Fisher is claiming that the university is focused on bringing up their minority numbers as opposed to choosing potential students not on the color of their skin, but on the way they worked and studied in school.
The now 22-year-old Fisher was seen leaving the courthouse with Edward Blum, a representative of legal defense fund group known as Project on Fair Representation. This group receives fiscal support from DonorsTrust which, in hand, has brought millions of dollars to a conservative, non-profit political advocacy group called Americans for Prosperity.
In 2003, the Supreme Court dealt with a different affirmative action case evolving around the University of Michigan’s law school in Grutter vs. Bollinger. In the end, the Court sided with the University of Michigan because the Supreme Court Justices believe the school had enough interest in supporting more minorities to attend rather than just focusing +on choosing them.