Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Challenges. Discussion »
WASHINGTON - On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court decided to hear a case that may ultimately do away with affirmative action in college entry decisions. Thus, would impact entry potential entry for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
By accepting and agreeing to hear arguments involving race-conscious admission at the University of Texas, the subject of affirmative action will be front and center this Fall when the court is expected to hear at the case.
"Legally, it shouldn't have any impact whatsoever. Federal Indian law gives schools a safe place to continue to practice affirmative action, even more aggressively than UT, because affirmative action based on tribal membership is not a racial classification, but a classification based on political status. In that vein, tribal members are akin to veterans or diplomats in that laws giving them preference are political in character,"
Commenting Matthew Fletcher, Ottawa, director the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law on the potential impact on the case's outcome.
The timing of arguments this Fall may influence the presidential elections because the case is expected to be heard just before the November election. With such a high profile case, the media will surely have the presidential candidates weigh in on such a potentially divisive subject.
"In reality, it makes a difference because schools afraid of being sued for affirmative action policies probably won't go out of their way to make an exception to Indian people."
The case was brought by Abigail Fisher, a Caucasian student, who sued the University of Texas because she feels she was denied admission because of her race.
It was a 2003 US Supreme Court decision that was expected to last 25 years. In that case, Grutter v. Bollinger, by a vote of 5-4, the court decided that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to add to its minority student enrollment, but could take race into account to ensure diversity.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra O'Connor was the deciding vote. She wrote then: "diversity encourages lively classroom discussions, fosters cross-racial harmony and cultivates leaders seen as legitimate." Justice O'Connor has since retired, which altered the composition of the court.
Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., who replaced Justice O'Connor has typically voted with the high court's conservative justices decisions that have involved race.
While arguments will be made prior to the November presidential election, it is not expected to be decided until spring of 2013.
posted February 22, 2012 12:57 pm est
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