(Washington, DC)  Today, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The 7-1 decision, written by Justice Kennedy, reaffirms the ability for educational institutions to consider race as one among a number of factors in a university’s admissions criteria to achieve the many educational benefits that stem from a diverse student body.

Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Today’s decision preserves the ability of colleges and universities to consider racial and ethnic diversity as one factor among many in a carefully crafted admissions policy, reaffirming the vital educational role that diversity in the classroom and on campus can play.  Women, and especially women of color, are more likely to succeed in schools that promote diversity and eliminate barriers to women’s entrance into historically male-dominated fields, such as engineering and computer science.  As the Court recognized, “[t]he attainment of a diverse student body . . . serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes.”

“Nearly a decade ago, the Court ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger that an admissions policy that carefully considers racial and ethnic diversity as one of many factors is wholly consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the law.  The University of Texas at Austin’s admissions program meets that standard and on remand will be able to demonstrate that the program is consistent with the Court’s decision today.  Affirmative action is a crucial tool for counteracting the continuing effects of gender and racial stereotypes and achieving the many benefits of a diverse student body, which is in the interest of not only universities but also the entire country.”

The Center submitted an amicus brief on behalf of twenty-four women’s and legal organizations in support of the University of Texas, explaining that an educational experience in a diverse community of learners can dispel both race and gender stereotypes, which are often intertwined, and that this diversity is essential to preparing students to succeed as leaders in communities and businesses. The Center also described the stereotypes faced by women of color in higher education and in the workplace, demonstrating that affirmative action is a necessary tool to break down these stereotypes.  The brief is available at https://www.nwlc.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/nwlc_fisher_ final_brief_08.13.12.pdf.

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