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Monday, by a 7-1 vote the Supreme Court decided to send the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions plan back to the lower courts (that had sided with the university) stating that the court had not properly applied the standard of strict scrutiny, the toughest judicial assessment of whether a government’s action is constitutional.
Although the court had previously supported race as a consideration in university admissions in an effort to promote diversity, today the court raised the bar stating that schools must prove that there are “no workable race-neutral alternatives” to achieve said diversity.
"The University must prove that the means chosen by the University to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal. On this point, the University receives no deference," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote. "Strict scrutiny must not be strict in theory but feeble in fact."
The decision is a small victory for Abigail Fisher, a white woman that claimed the University of Texas at Austin discriminated against her after her application was rejected in 2008 under the school’s race-conscious admission program.
“I am grateful to the justices for moving the nation closer to the day when a student’s race isn't used at all in college admissions,” Fisher said in a statement.
The conservative-leaning decision could encourage more cases against race-conscious decision elsewhere, but it has not yet ruled out the use of race in admissions decisions all together.
The last time the court ruled on affirmative action in college admissions was in 2003, when the court ruled in Gutter v. Bollinger that a limited use of race by the University of Michigan Law School was acceptable in order to achieve diversity that benefits all students.