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  • Washington Highlights

    Supreme Court Rules Universities May Continue to Consider Race in Holistic Admissions

    Frank Trinity, Chief Legal Officer

    In a 4-3 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the Supreme Court June 23 upheld the constitutionality of the University’s admissions process, stating that, “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.” This ruling continues to allow universities and other institutions of higher education to consider race as one of many factors in a holistic review of applications for admission.

    In response to the ruling, AAMC President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., said, “The AAMC is pleased that the Supreme Court has closed this eight-year chapter by upholding the constitutionality of the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions process. The court’s decision re-affirms the educational benefits of diversity and defers to the good-faith judgments of educators who strive to achieve those benefits for their students and for society as a whole. The decision embraces the notion of diversity as multi-dimensional, and bolsters the use of individualized, holistic review in admissions, based on each school’s mission and circumstances.”

    Justice Kennedy’s decision re-affirms that an institution of higher education may use a race-conscious admissions policy provided that it is necessary and narrowly tailored to meet the institution’s compelling interest in the educational benefits of a diverse student body, as set forth in the 2003 decision, Grutter v. Bollinger. The decision also states that the University has an “ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admission policies.”

    When the case was accepted by the Court, the AAMC, joined by 32 organizations representing a range of health professional education groups, filed an amicus brief  highlighting the continued prevalence of health disparities and reinforcing the importance of student diversity in health professional education settings [see Washington Highlights, Nov. 5, 2015].