Supreme Court

Divided Court Tackles College Affirmative Action

A lot of questions asked about how preferences actually work in practice


During oral arguments yesterday, the Supreme Court revisited an issue that has divided the judicial body for decades – affirmative action.

"I want to know," Justice Stephen G. Breyer asked Bert W. Rein early in the session, "whether you want us to… overrule Grutter."

He was referring to Grutter v. Bollinger, the 2003 ruling in which the Court allowed universities to institute affirmative action as long as they assiduously followed the Court's narrowly tailored guidelines.  Namely, the decision outlawed quotas and prevented a university from categorizing applicants in separate pools based on race or ethnicity.  Instead, a university had to adopt a holistic, individualized approach where an applicant's race or ethnicity would be one of many factors taken into consideration.