WASHINGTON, D.C. (MCT) — The Supreme Court cast doubt Tuesday on the future of affirmative action at the nation’s colleges and universities, agreeing to hear an appeal from a white student in Texas who seeks an end to “racial preferences” in college admissions.
The decision could either limit the use of affirmative action or broadly forbid using race as an admissions factor.
However, because the court’s calendar is filled through the spring, the court will not hear arguments in the case until October, weeks before the presidential election.
The Obama administration could choose to weigh in on the issue, but it need not do so. The court’s intervention nonetheless is an ominous sign for defenders of affirmative action. Justice Elena Kagan also announced she will not take part in the decision.
The court has been closely split on affirmative action since 1978. By a 5-4 vote then, the justices said universities may consider a minority student’s race as a plus factor when choosing new students so as to bring about more diversity in the class. Eight years ago, the court reaffirmed that view in a 5-4 opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Not long afterward, O’Connor retired and was replaced by the more conservative Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. In 2007, he joined an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. that forbids school districts from assigning students to elementary or high schools for the purpose of creating a better racial balance.