The Legal Context and Social Science Evidence in Fisher v. University of Texas
When colleges and universities use race-conscious admissions policies, they must confront questions about whether their policies meet constitutional scrutiny. 1 This is because the explicit consideration of race in institutional policies triggers constitutional overview under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As challenges to these policies reach the nation’s highest court, each of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in this area-including Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), Gratz v. Bollinger (2003), and most recently Fisher v. University of Texas (2013)—has, in turn, shaped institutional efforts intended to address racial and ethnic inequities in education. While the effect of the Court’s most recent decision in Fisher remains to be seen, it reminded institutions that they must be ready to provide evidence supporting the need for race-conscious admissions policies. Hence, in this post-Fisher environment, it is critical for institutional leaders to understand the legal issues involved in race-conscious admissions policies and the social science evidence that is relevant to the Court’s determinations.