Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who was chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when the seminal affirmative action college admissions decision of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke was handed down, issued the following statement on today's Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas, a similar case.
"Diversity in college admissions was saved today by a remand to the lower court to use the strict scrutiny standard in evaluating the constitutionality of the admissions process at the University of Texas. It is welcome news that the conservative Court majority did not bar affirmative action in college admissions, as some had predicted. Instead, the Court reaffirmed the holding in Bakke that student diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race among admissions criteria, and quoted from Bakke that student diversity "encompasses a broad array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element.' This has always been my understanding of the Bakke case and its progeny, which have allowed affirmative action in college admissions to be used throughout the U.S. The lower court will have to consider whether the University of Texas plan was narrowly enough tailored. Regardless of the determination based on the facts there, the Court has allowed affirmative action nationwide to continue the work of achieving racial diversity in higher education."