Bwog Covers ABCD (Affirmative Action, Bollinger, And Court Decisions)
Written by Gowan Moïse
Arts Editor and aspiring legal scholar Gowan Moïse takes time off from his summer law internship to catch up on Supreme Court decisions and the continuing influence of our own PrezBo’s legal precedent from his time at the University of Michigan.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al. and released a 4-3 decision, affirming the constitutionality of the University’s system of admissions with regard to the use of ‘race-sensitive admissions policies.’ Fisher originally brought her case before the Court in 2013, where it was remanded and sent back down to a lower court for strict scrutiny of the circumstances and application of the admissions policies.
Fisher alleged that the University of Texas disadvantaged her (a Caucasian) compared to students of racial minorities in the admissions process, positing that this discrimination against her violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision of the Court puts to rest these allegations of bias brought against the University, with Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor in concurrence with Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion. Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas and Alito dissented. Justice Kagan recused herself because of her involvement with the case as Solicitor General when it was in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In both the 2013 and 2016 written decisions, the Court reference two notable cases of precedent for affirmative action, both involving Columbia’s very own Lee C. Bollinger. While serving as president of the University of Michigan, Bollinger was the named defendant in cases brought against the undergraduate school and the law school at Michigan, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger respectively.
While the Court determined that the undergraduate policies regarding racial preference were unconstitutional in Gratz v. Bollinger, the law school’s affirmative action policies were found constitutional by a 5-4 margin. Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the majority opinion for Grutter v. Bollinger that the Constitution “does not prohibit the law school’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” This statement set the precedent by which Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al. was ultimately decided; the University of Texas has in place what is considered a ‘narrow’ use of race in admissions with a well-defined purpose with regard to the educational and social benefits that the University enjoys from diversity.
Bollinger released a response on the Fisher decision, stating:
“With today’s decision, the Supreme Court has ensured that our nation’s universities and colleges can continue to assemble the kind of truly diverse student bodies that are essential to achieving the highest levels of excellence in teaching, learning and research. The ruling reaffirms the essential holding of Grutter v. Bollinger that narrowly tailored affirmative action programs can be justified by a range of important educational goals, including ending stereotypes and preparing students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society.
The fact is, affirmative action in higher education has been overwhelmingly successful and we should be proud of the impact it has had not only on college campuses, but in moving us closer to the integrated society first envisioned by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. But the sad reality is that racial discrimination has deep roots in our history and an enduring impact on our society, especially in a public education system that remains overwhelmingly segregated and unequal. By preserving affirmative action in college admissions, this ruling sustains an essential element of the nation’s continuing efforts to address its defining historical challenge.”
For those interested in reading the full opinion of the Supreme Court on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin et al, it can be found here.
The great man himself via Columbia’s alumni magazine
Tags: boo for mediocre white people trying to belittle minorities through the misapplication of justice!!, but Scalia's vote would have just made the lower court's decision valid so nothing matters, PrezBo does legal stuff, PrezBo's UMich Days, the majority opinion is riveting trust us, we all know which way Scalia would have voted....., yay for affirmative action!