SCOTUS Among Us: How Important is Affirmative Action Anyway?

Supreme Court Affirmative Action Case

We look at the Fisher v University of Texas at Austin case and laugh at the absurdity of it all. Then get very depressed thinking this could roll back affirmative action practices in higher education… 


So ‘SCOTUS Among Us’ is us trying to talk about Supreme Court cases before the court decides on them. Look at this post as a first try. But in our first foray, we look at the Fisher v University of Texas at Austin case that has been getting a lot of media attention the past few days.   


For most teenagers, when you don’t get accepted into the college of your choice you mope around for a few weeks, usually get into your safety school, and next year when you’re doing keg stands the night before a midterm, you’ve completely forgotten about an incident you thought was traumatic less than a year ago. Then again, most teenagers aren’t Abigail Fisher.


When Fisher found out that she hadn’t been accepted to University of Texas at Austin, she decided to take the university to court. Her claim? That she was denied college admission due to affirmative action standards that made it unfair to white students such as herself. This case has now gone all the way to the Supreme Court.


Fisher v University of Texas at Austin was destined to be media fodder the moment the Supreme Court decided to hear a case on affirmative action once again. After all, the case has everything! Minority groups furious that old men in robes couldn’t grasp the idea of institutional racism, old white men in robes saying they completely understand “institutional racism” then question if we really need minorities in competitive colleges, and of course a teenage girl completely oblivious to the concept of white privilege. Yup, media gold!


Gold Jerry Gold


News about the hearings looked to be the same from every source. As both sides presented their cases on affirmative action and how it relates to the realm of college admissions, it was either met with heaping amounts of skepticism from conservative judges or liberal judges questioning if this was actually a case of affirmative action effecting Fisher’s acceptance chances.


One of the more noted conservative comments came from everyone’s “favorite” conservative Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia, with his most memorable quote from the hearing,


“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school … a slower-track school, where they do well.”


He actually went on to blaming University of Texas by implying the university’s main purpose was to show that the use of race during admissions process was “neutral” and not that affirmative action was effective, in which he went on by continued to mock them by saying, “they failed to put it in, let’s give them another chance… let’s do a do-over.”


Which the exchange basically made us think about this all over again.


Scalia Burn


Good to see some things still hold true…


Luckily this vote isn’t based on Justice Scalia, it’s placed squarely on Justice Kennedy’s shoulders. Which basically means the case could go either way considering he’s the court’s swing vote – the phrase “swing vote” to be read as “wild card” – when it comes to divisive cases like these. Yet based on the court’s comments, none of the outcomes of this case look particularly great.


And now listen; we’re no big city lawyers. Much like this guy,



We’re just simple hyper-chickens from a backwards asteroid, so unlike politics, reading the tea leaves on Supreme Court cases isn’t necessarily our forte. At the same time, we know some people that might know a thing-or-two about predicting cases based on Supreme Court testimony.


Their take?


They say that SCOTUS has three options, but none of them particularly great. They either:


(a) Kill affirmative action nationwide and come to the conclusion that the initiative failed in what it tried to do; which is diversify the student body.

(b) Kill the way it’s done in one of Texas’ largest public institutions, which basically kills affirmative action practices being used in Texas’ higher education system.

(c) Let the university take another crack at this to prove that affirmative action has a place in higher education.


The good news is considering both options (a) and (b) would be landmark decisions made by the Supreme Court that would turn the clock back on affirmative action practices, there is very little chance of that being the verdict, considering they’re working with a shortened bench of eight justices (Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from this case because she worked on an affirmative action case when she was President Obama’s solicitor general). In other words, it would look really weird if the Court created precedence without a full bench. So in that case (c) is looking to be the more leveled headed of the choices.


The only problem (c) isn’t necessarily a good choice either.


If the university was to rethink their admissions process (ie not take affirmative action into consideration when sending out acceptances), that to could have a major impact in how University of Texas looks at affirmative action practices, which in turn could affect the minority population at Texas’ largest state university.


A day after the court case the hashtag #StayMadAbby started trending on Twitter. Current and former African-American students started to offer their own opinions on the case…



Yup, seems about right.



(Photo Credits: Art Lien, Google Images, YouTube)


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