Affirmative action at universities in doubt as US Supreme Court hears arguments – Los Angeles Times

The future of affirmative action at public universities appeared in some doubt Wednesday as the Supreme Court justices debated for a second time whether to strike down a race-based admissions policy at the University of Texas.

It was clear that the court’s conservatives, including Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., believe that using affirmative action in admission decisions is unneeded and unconstitutional.

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When a university lawyer spoke of the importance of classroom diversity, Roberts asked, “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”

In the past, when the high court has upheld affirmative action, it did so with the understanding that it was a “temporary” measure, the chief justice said. “When do you think your program will be done?” he asked.

The liberals, led by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, spent much of the hour arguing in defense of the university’s policy.

Sotomayor, the court’s first Latina, grew up in the Bronx and said she had benefited from affirmative action when she was admitted to Princeton University.

“I fear something. I do have a worry” that the court is on the verge of shutting down affirmative action at state universities across the nation, she said.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who almost surely holds the deciding vote, voiced frustration because university lawyers could not quantify in detail what role race plays in determining which students are admitted. “We’re just arguing the same case again,” Kennedy said at one point, referring to the fact that the court had heard the same case two years ago and sent it back to a lower court for closer review.

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