Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Monday, June 24, 2013

Supreme Court's ruling in Texas affirmative action case will not directly affect U-M

In a much-anticipated decision regarding affirmative action in higher education, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday returned to a lower court a case involving the University of Texas at Austin's admissions policy.

With its 7-1 ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the court reconfirmed Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 decision involving the U-M Law School that held the pursuit of educational benefits through diversity is a compelling interest that can be achieved by the narrowly tailored consideration of race.

However, the court concluded that the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals did not properly consider whether the UT-Austin policy was sufficiently narrowly tailored.

The decision does not directly affect U-M because the university complies with the Michigan Constitution, which was amended in 2006 to prohibit preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender, national origin and ethnicity in public education, public employment, and public contracting.

"Although Fisher does not directly apply to us, we are pleased that the Supreme Court has upheld Grutter and continues to recognize the educational benefits that come with a diverse student body," President Mary Sue Coleman said.

"At the University of Michigan, we remain committed to building and maintaining diversity on our campus, and we will continue to work toward that goal in ways that comply with state and federal law."

UT-Austin had relied on the Grutter case in developing its admissions policy, but the Surpeme Court concluded the Fifth Circuit did not correctly analyze whether the Texas admissions policy was narrowly tailored to achieve the purposes specified in Grutter. The lower court now will be asked to reassess that issue.

At issue in the Fisher case was whether UT-Austin could explicitly consider race in its admissions policy, or whether the state of Texas’ 10 Percent Plan, which guarantees admission to a state university to all Texas students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class, already provided sufficient student body diversity.

Abigail Fisher, who was not eligible for automatic admission under the Top 10 Percent Plan, sued the University of Texas, claiming she was denied admission based on race.