by Jeremy Leaming
A slew of organizations are weighing in on the constitutionality of the University of Texas at Austin's race-conscious admissions policy and if you have all the time in the world you can read those groups' arguments by checking out SCOTUSblog.
As the U.S. Supreme Court opens its 2012-2013 term on Oct.1 one of the more compelling and pressing cases on its docket concerns a white woman’s challenge to the university’s admission policy, which takes a number of factors, including race, into account when building its student body. In a 2003 case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the high court majority led by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor found the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race in its admission policy supported a compelling educational interest and did not violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.
The case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, will give a significantly more conservative high court the chance to gut Grutter, taking down or greatly hobbling race-conscious admission policies that many rightists, including libertarians, have been gunning for.
Civil liberties groups, educational groups, labor organizations, such as SEIU have come to the defense of the university’s admission policy. This blog has noted some of those group’s contributions, such as here and here and here.
But an impressive group of former senior officers and civilian leaders of the U.S. military is also weighing in with support of an admissions policy that allows a university to build a diverse student body. The reasoning of military amicus that lodged a friend-of-the-court brief in Grutter remains “true today and amici embrace them: Based on decades of experience, the modern United States military regards a highly qualified and racially and ethnically diverse officer corps as vital to military effectiveness.”
The military group, including Gen. Colin L. Powell, Gen. Henry H. Shelton and Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, is represented by Philippa Scarlett, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and an ACS Board member.
The military group’s brief argues in favor of the admissions policy’s constitutionality, but also explains why such policies are so vital to the military. The Fisher case centers mostly on the university’s needs and a student’s claim that it is unconstitutional, the military group’s brief, however, notes that the case’s “impact dramatically transcends academia.”