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Supreme Court To Hear Affirmative Action Case That Could Be Campaign Issue

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear oral arguments in a Texas affirmative action case that has, as NPR.org's Liz Halloran wrote last fall, "the potential to rewrite law on how or whether public colleges and universities may consider race and ethnicity as a factor in admissions."

And because the case will be argued this fall, it could be among the hotly debated issues in the presidential and congressional campaigns.

"The Texas case began in 2008," Liz reported, "when two white female applicants, Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, were denied entrance into the state's largest university. They challenged the university's race-conscious admission policies, arguing that they were not 'narrowly tailored' " as required by the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter vs. Bollinger, a case concerning the University of Michiga's "use of race in assessing law school applicants."

The court, in a 5-4 ruling, upheld Michigan's policy in that 2003 Grutter ruling. But since then, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor — who wrote the majority opinion — has been replaced by more conservative Justice Samuel Alito.

A federal appeals court, as The Associated Press reminds us, has upheld the Texas program. The Obama administration favors the program. The president's potential Republican opponents do not. So watch for much discussion.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.