WASHINGTON — This week, the Supreme Court handed down a 6-2 ruling upholding the right of states to ban race-conscious admissions in higher education. In doing so, the court also affirmed the constitutionality of selecting members of a school’s incoming class based on a single credential: the credit worthiness of its applicants.
Interested parties received the thick envelope containing the court’s five separate opinions on Tuesday, which amounted to upwards of 100 pages. Not everyone was pleased with the court’s offer, however.
Critics of the decision worry that more states might be tempted to enact bans on affirmative action, which have been associated with significant declines in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in Florida, Michigan, California, and elsewhere.
Others didn’t see the decision in such stark black-and-white terms.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his controlling opinion, “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved.” Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito Jr. joined Kennedy’s opinion, in which they indicated, “It’s about dispensing with the antiquated idea that the equal protection clause of the Constitution needs to be interpreted by every state equally, in the same way.”
Writing separately, both Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas argued that “the color of an applicant’s skin is not what should account for college admissions, but the size of his bank account.”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor was forced to remind Scalia and Thomas in her outraged dissent, “Universities admit women nowadays, don’t forget. So I suppose my colleagues should consider the size of her bank account, too.”
A clerk for Thomas suggested that the justice was “at liberty to completely disregard coeds, should he choose.”
The ruling would leave public universities in the seven states that have banned affirmative action free to prioritize legacy candidates, children of wealthy donors, and applicants whose family wealth can easily pay full tuition.
“Institutes of higher education in these states should be free to select their student body based on any measure they choose, so long as that selection is not based on race,” said Scalia from the bench.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me,” the justice continued, “I have to write a check to Harvard Law School. They’re naming a library after me.”