TEXAS TECH — The Supreme Court remained silent Monday on race-conscious admissions policies in higher education, refusing to hear Texas’ challenge to a ruling that its law school affirmative action program discriminated against whites.
Without comment, the decision not to take the case showed the justices are not yet ready to break years of silence on preferential admissions in public colleges.
Texas Tech President David Schmidly said he was disappointed the Hopwood decision was upheld because of the constraints it places on recruiting in Texas.
“It continues to place us at a disadvantage to other states not under Hopwood that can come in and recruit students,” Schmidly said.
“We’re not going to use it as an excuse. Our commitment is to diversify the student body at Texas Tech no matter what it takes, we just aren’t going to do it through affirmative action, but we’re finding other ways.”
David Rogers was one of the plaintiffs in the original case, Hopwood v. Texas. He graduated from the Tech law school last month and said he likes the court’s decision.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “It sends a clear message from the Supreme Court that racial quotas in university admission is inadmissible- that will virtually never be allowed in any circumstance. The Supreme Court had a chance twice to hear the case and decided not to both times. This shows the Supreme Court thinks that the ruling was correct the first time.”
This may not be the last word, however, because challenges to the University of Michigan’s preferential policies could reach the court in the October term.
The high court hasn’t spoken definitively on the issue since the fractured 1978 Bakke decision, when the majority said universities may take race into account in admissions.
States across the country are wrestling with ways to keep up minority enrollment in public colleges, and several are operating under court orders or negotiated agreements to end discrimination in higher education.
Pat Campbell, vice chancellor and general counsel for Texas Tech, said affirmative action continues to be a controversial issue.
“Most people feel on the one hand that people should be treated the same that there should be no discrimination whatsoever, but that premise is sort of set aside when you are trying to recruit and graduate a diversified population.”
While the Texas case involved the law school policy, it had a much broader effect in the state. Once the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the policy, the state devised a new system for all its undergraduate public colleges.
The substitute includes guaranteed admission to any public university in the state to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
For professional schools, however, the state’s alternative was extensive minority recruitment.
”Today’s order resolves nothing,” University of Texas law professor Douglas Laycock said. ”We are disappointed, but sooner or later the court will decide this issue. In the meantime, we will explore our remaining legal options, and we will work aggressively to recruit those minority students that the courts will let us admit.”
“I feel strongly that everyone should be treated truly the same but also I feel strongly that a diverse student population is extremely important,” Campbell said. “Being a lawyer working in an educational institute, I wish that the court would have given some guidance the things that could have been constitutionally considered.”