The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the consideration of race in college admissions, rejecting a white woman's challenge to a University of Texas program designed to boost the enrollment of minority students.
The court, in a 4-3 ruling written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, decided in favor of the university and turned aside the conservative challenge to a policy intended to foster racial and ethnic diversity on campus.
The ruling ended an eight-year legal challenge to the affirmative action admissions system used by the University of Texas at Austin brought by Abigail Fisher, who was denied a place in 2008.
Affirmative action is a policy under which racial minorities historically subject to discrimination are given certain preferences in education and employment. Instead of a retreat on affirmative action that Fisher and her conservative backers had sought, the court endorsed race-based admissions for diversity.
Fisher said the university denied her admission in favor of lesser-qualified black and Hispanic applicants in violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Kennedy, a conservative who has previously voted against university affirmative action, was joined by three of the court's liberals in the ruling. He said that "it remains an enduring challenge to our nation's education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity."
In the Texas case, the challengers had failed to show that the university could have met its needs with another process, he said. Kennedy noted that the school "tried and failed to increase diversity" through other race-neutral means.
University officials contend that having a sizable number of minorities enrolled exposes students to varied perspectives and enhances the educational experience for all students.
The justices upheld a 2014 ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had endorsed the school's "limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity."