In February, the US Supreme Court announced that it will grant further appellate review to a case concerning the constitutionality of race-based affirmative action in the admissions process at the University of Texas, where a white female honor student was denied admission. SCOTUS last squarely addressed this issue nearly ten years ago, when it upheld the University of Michigan’s right to consider race in the admissions equation. But subsequent turnover in the composition of the court (and a general consensus that the Court now leans more right), is raising concerns—and hopes, depending on your view—that the Court’s new ruling will effectively end the use of race-based affirmative action criteria in higher education admissions.
Affirmative action has been a part of American politics and culture for over fifty years. More than two-thirds of the current U.S. population was born after President Kennedy’s 1961 executive order mandating the use of affirmative action in connection with federal contracts. An outright reversal of Supreme Court precedent is rare. More typical is the gradual reshaping of the application of principles of law over time (a “chipping away” of legal precedent, to some.) But it happens. // Michael Racette