On June 23, 2003, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor read her majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, the case that upheld the affirmative action policy at the University of Michigan Law School.
"It has been 25 years since Justice Powell first suggested approval of the use of race to further an interest in student body diversity in the context of higher education" Justice O'Connor said. "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest that we approve today."
Today, just nine years after Justice O'Connor issued the Court's decision in Grutter, the Supreme Court will hear Fisher v. University of Texas, Austin, a case that has the potential to overturn affirmative action in higher education. The university grants admission to all Texas students in the top ten percent of their class. Students who miss that cut-off are reviewed on a number of factors, including test scores, recommendation letters, leadership, and race and ethnicity.
Abigail Fisher, a 22-year-old white woman from Sugarland, Texas, missed the ten percent cut-off and was rejected. She sued the school in 2008, and the Supreme Court decided to take the case last February.
Justice O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2005. Her replacement, Justice Samuel Alito, is decidedly against affirmative action, a fact that's led most Court-watchers to speculate that the justices are likely to overturn the Grutter decision.
As the Supreme Court hears arguments on the constitutionality of affirmative action, The Takeaway conducts its own debate: Is it time to put an end to affirmative action in higher education?
Paul Butler argues for affirmative action. Paul is a professor at Georgetown Law School and author of "Let's Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice."
Arguing against affirmative action is Richard Sander, professor at UCLA Law School and co-author of the new book, "Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students it’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It."