How To Read The SCOTUS Affirmative Action Decision

On Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action program at the University of Texas at Austin, affirming the constitutionality of the university's programs to promote diversity among its student body. Whether or not you agree with it, you may be wondering: How can I read the SCOTUS affirmative action decision?

You can read the full text of the ruling on the official Supreme Court website. The case, Fisher v. University of Texas, was brought forward by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin, the state's flagship university, in 2008. She said this happened because of her race, but the university maintained that her mediocre grades and substandard application were the reason. Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her graduating class, and at the time, UT provided automatic admission to top 10 percent students from high schools in Texas. (The school has since changed its policy to admit students in the top 7 percent of their high school graduating class.)

The decision in Fisher v. University of Texas was upheld in a 4-3 vote, with Justice Anthony Kennedy authoring the majority opinion. He was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself, as she had previously worked on the case as solicitor general.

Kennedy wrote in his opinion that UT "articulated concrete and precise goals" with its affirmative action program in order to create an educational environment which offers a "robust exchange of ideas, exposure to differing cultures, preparation for the challenges of an increasingly diverse workforce, and acquisition of competencies required of future leaders." He added that the University provided a "reasoned, principled explanation" for its decision to pursue these goals. Justice Samuel Alito disagreed, and he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas in dissent. You can read the full opinion and dissent of the Court at SupremeCourt.gov.