Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard, which ended affirmative action in higher education, is the worst legal decision of 2023, setting back efforts to dismantle white privilege in the U.S. and resisting the construction of a more inclusive society. Professor Sarat explains why the decision is undemocratic, exacerbating racial inequities and closing pathways to power and prosperity for students of color, contrary to the aspirations of a genuinely inclusive and egalitarian democracy.
NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the use of racial preferences in college admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, creating uncertainty about the future of affirmative action in both higher education and employment. Professor Estreicher points out that while the Court opposed the “outright racial balancing” used by the universities, it left room for race-based “make whole” remedies in cases of proven intentional discrimination, raising questions about the permissible extent of race-based remediation and its applicability in various contexts, including employment.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains how Congress can (and argues that it should) protect affirmative action in private colleges and universities in light of the supermajority of the Supreme Court that seems hostile to affirmative action. Professor Dorf points out that even if his suggestion seems far-fetched in the current political climate, urgent calls for action now can effectively arm advocates to effect change when they are better positioned to do so in the future.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the possible significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to divide, rather than consolidate, argument in the affirmative action cases it will be deciding next term. Professor Dorf suggests the decision would allow Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to participate in one of the cases and could also allow the Court to attend to at least two important factual and legal differences between the two cases.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a recent case from Virginia that suggests when revising admissions criteria to alter the racial makeup of a school’s student body is constitutional (and when it is not). Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that although some Supreme Court Justices have suggested in dicta and dissents some permissible options, they may very well decide that those options too are impermissible, despite the natural and reasonable reliance on those writings.
Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar offers three observations on a measure recently approved by the California legislature that would, if approved by the voters, repeal Proposition 209, the voter initiative that has prohibited affirmative action by the state and its subdivisions since its passage in 1996. Amar praises the California legislature for seeking to repeal Prop 209 and for seeking to do so using the proper procedures, and he suggests that if Prop 209 is repealed, legal rationales for the use of race should be based not only on the value of diversity (as they have been for some time now), but also on the need to remedy past wrongs against Black Americans.
In this third and final column in a series about the legal challenge to Harvard Law Review’s diversity program, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone consider how much deference courts should give to law reviews when they assert diversity as a basis for considering race and gender. Amar and Mazzone anticipate that even in the unlikely event that this lawsuit reaches the Supreme Court, any fundamental changes to existing affirmative action doctrine would likely require the Court to weigh in on multiple cases over an extended period.
In this first of a series of columns, Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone comment on a legal challenge to the practice by Harvard Law Review of taking into consideration race, gender, and other demographic factors when making membership decisions. Amar and Mazzone highlight some of the hurdles the challenger faces in establishing standing— the right to have the dispute heard in a federal forum.
Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the recent indications that the Trump Justice Department will investigate and possibly sue colleges and universities that make use of race-based affirmative action. Without expressing views as to the merits of pending lawsuits, Amar explains how one can simultaneously support race-based affirmative action and oppose the so-called “Asian penalty”—that is, systematically requiring Asian American applicants to have higher scores than white applicants.
Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf highlights some potentially dangerous consequences of the Justice Department’s recent indication that it would be investigating and suing colleges and universities that practice affirmative action. Dorf points out that the executive branch holds significant power over both public and private universities and colleges, and that it could exercise that power to induce significant changes in admissions policies.
Dean and law professor at Illinois Law, Vikram David Amar comments on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion last week in Fisher v. Texas, where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the part of the University of Texas undergraduate admissions policy that formally takes the race of individual applicants into account in admitting a portion of the entering freshman class. Amar praises the opinion for being more forthright than other majority opinions of the Court in this area of law, but he expresses concern that in some respects Justice Kennedy’s language may actually obfuscate the legal doctrine at issue.
Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, discuss Justice Scalia’s provocative comments during last week’s oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas. Amar and Schaps point out that viewed in the most charitable light, Justice Scalia’s comments are actually an attempt to articulate an academic theory—known as mismatch theory—not simply bare racism. Though the authors are not persuaded of mismatch theory, they critique Scalia’s assumption that truth of the theory would compel the abolition of affirmative action altogether.
In light of the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether the school’s Ten Percent Plan is “race neutral.” Dorf distinguishes race consciousness from racial classifications, and he points out that Justice Kennedy—the Court’s usual swing vote on such issues—has historically found that distinction to be significant.
Illinois Law professor and dean Vikram David Amar describes five unusual aspects of this week’s oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, in which the Supreme Case is considering the role of affirmative action in university admissions.
Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean of the University of Illinois College of Law, identifies four key issues to watch in the Supreme Court’s 2015-2015 Term. As Amar discusses here, these issues center around: (1) public labor unions, (2) affirmative action, (3) abortion rights, and (4) the death penalty.