- The Supreme Court will hear a case against UT Austin’s admissions policies for the second time after first sending it back to a lower court in 2013 with instructions to use stricter scrutiny.
- The race-conscious admissions policies have been upheld by lower courts multiple times since Abigail N. Fisher was denied admission in 2008 and subsequently filed suit.
- The courts have come down on the side of the university based on its argument that considering race as part of a holistic admissions process furthers its academic mission but this latest appeal follows revelations that UT Austin’s former president, William C. Powers Jr., intervened in the admissions process to benefit children of his acquaintances.
The Cato Institute filed a brief earlier this year urging the Supreme Court to reconsider the University of Texas at Austin case based on the revelations about Powers. The think tank argued the former president's actions amounted to the creation of an alternative admissions process that could have unconstitutionally considered race outside of the narrow, legal parameters. The Supreme Court has become increasingly strict on the use of race in college and graduate school admissions but has so far acknowledged that a diverse campus is a proper goal for an institution based on the educational benefits of such an environment. The Austin case could be an opportunity to chip away even further at a college’s right to consider race in admissions decisions.
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion on gay marriage last week, has a consistent record on affirmative action programs — he has never voted in favor of one. He could cast the deciding vote in this case.