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Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action In Universities Back To Fifth Circuit

Flickr user Adam Fagen (afagen)

Affirmative action in college admissions is heading back to a lower court after the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to issue a sweeping constitutionality decision and instead re-evaluated the fundamentals in Fisher v. University of Texas.

The case centered on Abigail Fisher, a UT hopeful who was denied admission in 2008 -- Fisher was Caucasian. She claimed that students of other race were given priority admittance.

The court voted 7-1 to vacate the fifth circuit court’s decision that dismissed the case in 2011. The lower court upheld a previous ruling that affirmative action in admissions was constitutional.

The high court called for strict scrutiny in the review of both this and future cases of affirmative action in schools to determine if workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity.

Strict scrutiny is a judicial practice where the court examines a law to see if it serves to further a "compelling government interest" and is narrowly tailored enough to achieve such interest.

Germain Awad, a professor at UT that specializes in affirmative action said the secondary decision was not so much a mandate but a suggestion that schools re-evaluate how much race plays a factor in admission.

"In Texas and across the nation schools will have to face closer scrutiny of how they actually implement affirmative action policies on a day-to-day basis," Awad said.

Joey Palacios can be reached atJoey@TPR.org and on Twitter at @Joeycules