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The Power of Now
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Even more so today than when the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s race-conscious admissions policy nine years ago in Grutter v. Bollinger, there is broad consensus that a diverse college experience better prepares students to participate in our nation’s civic life and our rapidly globalizing economy. This consensus is reflected by the wide spectrum of amicus filings suppodrting the University of Texas’s admissions program in Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin (UT), one of the most widely discussed cases of the Court’s current term. UT’s supporters include, among many others, Colin Powell and thirty-six other high-ranking retired military officers; General Electric, American Express, Wal-Mart, and fifty-four other leading corporations; small businesses; prominent religious denominations; the United States;California and an array of other states; and the National League of Cities.
Indeed, even Abigail Fisher, the petitioner in this case, is not urging the Supreme Court to reconsider “the benefits of diversity for society as a whole, businesses, the military, or the civil service.” Distancing herself from the radical claims of her supporters, Fisher makes this important clarification in her reply brief.
Still, Fisher’s arguments could do grave damage. If they are accepted by a majority of the Justices, UT would be able to continue to consider virtually any aspect of students’ backgrounds and experiences as part of its individualized, holistic admissions process — except for their race. Eliminating this one factor, among so many others, would demean students whose race has been an integral part of their experience growing up, as well as those whose race remains a vital part of their identity. As Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and Yale Law School Dean Robert Post explain in their amicus brief supporting UT, it “would have the perverse effect of penalizing some applicants in the name of equal protection.”