Supreme Court Reaffirms That Universities May Consider Racial and Ethnic Diversity as One Factor In Admitting Students

For Immediate Release: June 24, 2013

Media Contacts: LatinoJustice PRLDEF – John Garcia, (212) 739-7513,;

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 7-1 decision, reaffirmed for now that universities may consider racial and ethnic diversity as one factor among many in their admission policy. The court remanded an affirmative action case back to a lower court thereby keeping in place a University of Texas at Austin policy that used race as one factor when selecting some incoming students.

The court endorsed its own prior decisions establishing affirmative action as constitutional to further states' compelling interest in fostering a diverse student body.

But the majority of the court decided that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit did not give a hard enough look at UT-Austin's race-conscious admissions program. The justices told the lower court that it misinterpreted their precedents when reviewing the case.

LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed an amicus brief in the case along with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF). See the amicus brief.

“We are glad that the majority of the court found that there was a need for equal opportunity in higher education,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel, LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “The court made clear that the university may consider racial and ethnic diversity as one factor in building a class of well-qualified students. Expanding opportunities for students of all backgrounds is in everyone’s interest. Hopefully the Court’s decision recommits America’s educational, business, and other institutions to fair and thoughtful ways of fostering diverse participation.”

The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, arose from a lawsuit filed by a white woman, Abigail Fisher, who said the university had denied her admission based on her race. Three-quarters of applicants from Texas are admitted under a program that guarantees admission to the top students in every high school in the state (Fisher did not qualify). The remaining students are considered under standards that take account of academic achievement and other factors, including race and ethnicity.


LatinoJustice PRLDEF, established in 1972, has won landmark civil rights cases in education, housing, voting, migrant, immigrant, employment and other civil rights. Through the efforts of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Latino voters have been critical players in ensuring fair and bilingual election systems and fair redistricting opportunities for the nation’s largest minority.

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