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High court questions Texas affirmative action plan

By Mark Sherman

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:45 a.m. HST, Oct 10, 2012

WASHINGTON » Supreme Court justices sharply questioned the University of Texas' use of race in college admissions today in a case that could lead to new limits on affirmative action.

The court heard arguments in a challenge to the program from a white Texan who contends she was discriminated against when the university did not offer her a spot in 2008.

The court's conservatives cast doubt on the program that uses race as one among many factors in admitting about a quarter of the university's incoming freshmen.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote could be decisive, looked skeptically on Texas' defense of the program. "What you're saying is what counts is race above all," Kennedy said.


» Fisher v. UT at Austin

Twenty-two-year-old Abigail Fisher was among the hundreds of spectators at the arguments. Also in attendance was retired Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in a 2003 case that upheld the use of race in college admissions.

Justice Samuel Alito, O'Connor's successor, has voted consistently against racial preferences since he joined the court in 2006 and appears likely to side with Fisher.

Among the liberal justices who looked more favorably on the Texas admissions system was Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She told Bert Rein, Fisher's Washington-based lawyer, that he was looking to "gut" the nine-year-old decision.

The federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the Texas program, saying it was consistent with the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger.

Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia and Alito raised repeated objections to the affirmative action plan.

Roberts wanted to know how the university would determine when it had a "critical mass" of diversity on campus that would allow it to end the program.

Near the end of the session, he complained, "I'm hearing a lot about what it's not. I would like to know what it is."

The university says the program is necessary to provide the kind of diverse educational experience the high court has previously endorsed. The rest of its slots go to students who are admitted based on their high school class rank, without regard to race

Opponents of the program say the university is practicing illegal discrimination by considering race at all, especially since it achieves significant diversity through its race-blind admissions.

After the argument concluded, Fisher read a brief statement outside in which she said she hoped the court would rule that race or ethnicity "should not be considered when applying to the University of Texas."

Justice Elena Kagan is not taking part in the case, probably because she worked on it at the Justice Department before joining the court.

Associated Press writer Jesse J. Holland contributed to this report.

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kuroiwaj wrote:
A decision by the US Supreme Court on affirmative acction will impact U.H. Manoa. Now, we can all be Americans.
on October 10,2012 | 06:32AM
MexMe wrote:
Colleges should use blind admissions. If you must have diversity, it should be socio-economic diversity as some minorities, such as those that attend prestigious private schools such as Punahou, have an advantage over a student who attends a less economically advantaged school such as Waianae or Nanakuli.
on October 10,2012 | 12:50PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Hey, Mexme, what is the difference between Waianae or Nanakuli and Punahou? When one begins to analyze any kind of possible differences, then we can begin to develop Waianae or Nanakuli to be as good or better than Punahou. I am aware that all parents of students who attend Waianae or Nanakuli want their children to be achievers. It is the Dept of Education and HGEA/HSTA who obstructs any improvements. The DOE/HGEA/HSTA must be on the same page and they are miles apart in objectives of student achievement. Mexme, go check it out. They (DOE/HGEA/HSTA) are not complying to the law established through Act 51.
on October 10,2012 | 03:33PM
Oahusurfer82 wrote:
Gee, I notice you don't see too many Asian students protesting to keep affirmative action in college admissions. I wonder why not? After all, Asians are "people of color," too, right? Therefore, isn't Affirmative Action in college admissions also benefiting Asians students as well as blacks?
on October 11,2012 | 03:51PM
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