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Supreme Court Explores Consideration of Race in Admissions

October 12, 2012—The U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 10 heard oral arguments in a case challenging the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race in undergraduate admissions.

Petitioner Abigail Fisher, a student who was denied admission to the university in 2008, is asking the court to invalidate the university’s admissions process under the court’s 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, or alternatively, to revisit the Grutter case’s holding. The 2003 decision allows consideration of race as part of a many-factor, individualized selection process to achieve a diverse student body.

During the oral argument in the Fisher case, justices pressed counsel for both parties, as well as the solicitor general, on the necessity and specific goals of the university’s admissions process. While some justices expressed skepticism about the university’s approach, Justice Stephen Breyer noted that there are many institutions of higher education relying on the court’s 2003 Grutter precedent.

The AAMC—joined by 29 organizations representing health care educators, providers, and students—filed an amicus brief   urging the court to preserve Grutter to ensure a diverse, culturally competent health professional workforce to address the critical health needs of an increasingly diverse nation.

The brief argues “the Nation’s medical schools have relied on this Court’s approval of the legal framework supporting their holistic, individualized evaluation process, which furthers the schools’ societal obligation to ensure that physicians will be competent to serve their increasingly diverse patients.”

Further, the brief notes that “[a]ccepting petitioner’s invitation to overrule these decisions, or to remove the deference to expert educators that underlies them, would effectively prevent medical schools from fully carrying out that obligation, to the detriment of patient health.”

A decision in the case is expected in spring 2013.


Frank Trinity, J.D.
Chief Legal Officer, Legal Services
Telephone: (202)828-0540


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Washington Highlights, a weekly electronic newsletter, features brief updates on the latest legislative and regulatory activities affecting medical schools and teaching hospitals.

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Jason Kleinman
Sr. Legislative Analyst, Govt. Relations
Telephone: 202-903-0806