For Affirmative Action in University Admissions, Strict Scrutiny Means Strict Scrutiny

June 24, 2013

Today, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al., 570 U.S. — (2013), regarding affirmative action in college admissions, the United States Supreme Court vacated a Fifth Circuit decision in favor of the University of Texas (University) because the Fifth Circuit did not hold the University to the demanding burden of strict scrutiny. Upon remand, the Fifth Circuit must assess whether the University offered sufficient evidence to prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity. Fisher confirms that under certain circumstances, universities may use race as a factor in admissions to further a compelling interest: obtaining the educational benefits of a diverse student body. But Fisher reminds that the methods universities use to obtain educational benefits from a diverse student body must be able to survive judicial review, and universities will not receive deference from courts regarding whether the means they use are narrowly tailored. To learn more about affirmative action plans in the workplace or in the university setting, please contact the authors.