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ARL Applauds US Supreme Court Decision Upholding Diversity in College Admissions

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image CC-BY-NC-ND by UT Austin

The US Supreme Court decided in a 4-3 ruling today, June 23, 2016, that it is lawful for the University of Texas (UT) at Austin to consider race as part of its holistic review process in undergraduate admissions. Today’s decision was the second time the Court ruled in this case, Fisher v. UT (Fisher II).

Abigail Fisher, an unsuccessful applicant to the University of Texas, asked the Supreme Court to reverse the 2014 decision of the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that re-endorsed the manner in which UT considers race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

Fisher’s suit, initially brought in 2008, asked the court to declare UT’s race-conscious admissions policy inconsistent with Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 University of Michigan case that confirmed that race can have an appropriate but limited role in college admissions. In 2013, the Supreme Court reaffirmed in Fisher I that obtaining the educational benefit of a diverse student body is a compelling interest that can justify narrowly tailored consideration of race, but remanded the case back to the Fifth Circuit to reconsider the admissions policy under the higher threshold of strict scrutiny.  

The Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher II finds that UT met its heightened burden in outlining its reasons and goals for improving diversity and acknowledges that there was sufficient evidence to support UT’s claim that race-neutral admissions policies were insufficient in improving diversity.

“The Association of Research Libraries hails today’s Supreme Court ruling affirming the consideration of race by the University of Texas in its holistic approach to undergraduate admissions,” said Chris Bourg, chair of ARL’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and director of MIT Libraries. “With this decision the Court has upheld the legal principle that the educational benefits of a diverse student body are a national priority. Diverse communities make stronger, more enlightened, globally engaged communities for all of us.”  

The Association of Research Libraries joined a 2012 amicus brief (PDF) and a 2015 amicus brief (PDF), both filed with dozens of other higher education associations, in support of the University of Texas admissions policy.

Read the Supreme Court’s June 23 opinion in Fisher v. UT (PDF). For more details and interpretation of this ruling, see the June 23 ARL Policy Notes blog post, “Supreme Court of the United States Upholds University of Texas Affirmative Action Policy.”


About the Association of Research Libraries

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) is a nonprofit organization of 124 research libraries in the US and Canada. ARL’s mission is to influence the changing environment of scholarly communication and the public policies that affect research libraries and the diverse communities they serve. ARL pursues this mission by advancing the goals of its member research libraries, providing leadership in public and information policy to the scholarly and higher education communities, fostering the exchange of ideas and expertise, facilitating the emergence of new roles for research libraries, and shaping a future environment that leverages its interests with those of allied organizations. ARL is on the web at http://www.arl.org/.

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