Society & Culture

Beating Affirmative Action

Is the composition of the Supreme Court the be-all and end-all of important societal conflicts?  Are there effective ways that conservatives can address these conflicts—manifest in political battles over such things as affirmative action—apart from the Court?

The Supreme Court’s decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, handed down on June 23, means affirmative action continues as public policy, with a divided Court ruling 4-3 that race-conscious admissions remain lawful under the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.  (Justice Antonin Scalia died before the case was decided, and Justice Elena Kagan recused herself.)  The decision maintains policies established by another divided SCOTUS in 2003 in two 5-4 decisions involving the University of Michigan.  In Gratz v. Bollinger, the Court struck down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate system of admissions, which at the time used a point system to give preferences to racial minorities.  But SCOTUS also upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s use of “race as a relevant feature within the broader context of a candidate’s application” in Grutter v. Bollinger.  The latter is considered a “holistic review” of college applicants.  In his Fisher majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “consideration...

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