AERA Briefing Examines the Supreme Court Decision in Fisher v. UT Austin

On June 28, the American Educational Research Association (AERA) held a briefing, After Fisher: What the Supreme Court’s Ruling Means for Students, Colleges, and the Country, to discuss the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, Austin (Fisher II). A distinguished panel of civil rights and education research experts focused on the impact of the Fisher II ruling and its implications for ensuring quality education for all students. The Court’s June 23 ruling reaffirmed “the compelling governmental interest in promoting student-body diversity in higher education and upheld the constitutionality of the University’s race-conscious admissions policy under the narrow tailoring requirement of strict scrutiny.” According to Angelo Ancheta, Counsel of Record for AERA et al. Amicus Curiae Brief, the Court’s ruling is “fully supported by the scientific literature on diversity.” This includes research on the educational benefits of diversity, the harms of racial isolation, critical mass, intra-racial diversity, and research refuting claims that race-conscious admissions policies harm minority students.

In addition to Ancheta, panelists included Gary Orfield, University of California, Los Angeles; Theodore Shaw, University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill; Liliana Garces, Pennsylvania State University; and Sheila Flores, New York University. Felice Levine, AERA executive director, moderated the session. The panelists addressed the constitutional findings of the ruling and its implication for civil rights, how the ruling comports with research on benefits of diversity in education, research as an asset and continuing opportunities, implications of Texas processes to other institutions and states, and opportunities and priorities for future research.

Orfield emphasized that the decision suggests “future opportunities and priorities for rigorous research.” He stressed the need for a shift in the research focus from “developing basic justification for campus diversity to better understand how campuses can achieve rich diversity in their admissions, recruitment, and student aid systems and to better understand how to achieve diversity across campus and across academic fields.” Shaw noted that “Fisher II is a victory for proponents of diversity and affirmative action.” Moreover, “diversity and affirmative action remain alive in higher education, repeatedly sustained and even strengthened by the Supreme Court.”

Flores emphasized that as educators and stakeholders there are key messages that need emphasis including “demography, data quality, and the continuing need for equity policies, in addition to effective diversity policies.” Garces added that as postsecondary institutions strive to meet the guidelines articulated in Fisher II, they can pull from the extensive body of evidence “documenting whether race-neutral admissions policies are workable and available, and whether they suffice to further their mission-driven interest in the educational benefits of diversity.”

A broadcast and additional information is available on AERA’s website.

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