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Supreme Court Will Again Hear ‘Fisher’ Case on Race-Conscious Admissions

[Last updated (6/29/2015, 1:04 p.m.) with statements by Ms. Fisher and the university.]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday again agreed to hear a legal challenge to the race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin, setting the stage for new arguments in a closely watched case that the justices decided once before, in 2013.

The plaintiff in the case, Abigail N. Fisher, had accused the Austin campus of discriminating against her after being denied admission in 2008. She subsequently graduated from Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge.

When the justices decided Ms. Fisher’s case the first time, they ordered the federal appeals court that had initially sided with the university to consider the case once more. The justices directed the lower court to subject the university’s race-conscious admissions policy to stricter scrutiny than it had done before.

Last summer, following the Supreme Court’s order, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit again said that the university’s admissions policy could stand.

“I am very grateful that the Supreme Court will once again hear my case,” Ms. Fisher said in a written statement. “I hope the justices will rule that UT is not allowed to treat undergraduate applicants differently because of their race or ethnicity.”

In a written statement, the new Austin president, Gregory L. Fenves, said college officials “look forward” to making arguments before the court. “Under the Supreme Court’s existing precedent, the university’s commitment to using race as one factor in an individualized, holistic admissions policy allows us to assemble a student body that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity for all students,” he wrote. “Our admissions policy is narrowly tailored, constitutional, and has been upheld by the courts multiple times.”

One unresolved question in the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Fisher case a second time is how it could be affected by the findings of an investigation into admissions at the Austin campus, released in February. The inquiry found that William C. Powers Jr., Mr. Fenves’s predecessor, had frequently intervened on behalf of well-connected applicants. Mr. Powers’s actions were unknown to the justices when they decided the Fisher case two years ago.

For more, see this Chronicle article.

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