Court setback for affirmative action

July 12, 1996

The United States Supreme Court has refused to consider an appeal against a controversial court ruling on the role of race in college admissions. The ruling sidesteps the sensitive issue of how far colleges may go in artificially boosting the numbers of minority students.

The Clinton administration, civil rights groups and nine states had joined Texas in challenging a lower court ruling barring the University of Texas law school from discriminating in favour of black and Mexican-American students. The court said that race "cannot be taken into account" in admissions.

The ruling was called a stunning setback for affirmative action programmes adopted in many colleges since the civil rights era to even the racial balance in higher education.

The University of Texas, intending that at least 15 per cent of its admissions be Mexican-American or black, had required lower test scores from both groups. But it abandoned the policy in 1992 - part of the reason the Supreme Court did not want to intervene.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, in refusing the petition to appeal: "We must await a final judgement on a program genuinely in controversy before addressing the important question raised in this petition."

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