Below are excerpts from arguments before the Supreme Court Tuesday over a challenge to the use of race in college admissions at the University of Texas. The university admits 75 percent of students through a plan that guarantees slots to Texans who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, regardless of race. The rest are admitted in a process where race is one of many factors considered.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
"Let me ask you about the 10 percent plan itself, because it seems to me that that is so obviously driven by one thing only, and that thing is race. It's totally dependent upon having racially segregated neighborhoods, racially segregated schools, and it operates as a disincentive for a minority student to step out of that segregated community and attempt to get an integrated education."
Bert Rein, representing Abigail Fisher, who opposes the University of Texas admissions program
"The top 10 plan does not classify anybody by race. It addresses only standing within the Texas educational system... It creates geographic diversity. It looks all over Texas. It doesn't distinguish between high schools. It creates socioeconomic diversity. It does have an effect, a demonstrated effect on race because a number of minorities, the type they care about, are admitted under the top 10 program. It's not based on race."
Justice Sonia Sotomayor:
"I fear something. I know there is an educational debate on the benefits and costs of a 10 percent plan. I don't want to get into that debate, but I do have a worry, which is: If you're reading proof of a compelling need, or proof of a compelling need, will any holistic review ever survive? Because as I'm reading your answer, to narrowly tailor, schools have to use nonracial means of doing it. And if the 10 percent plan is the only thing that achieves a greater number in minorities, won't every school have to use a 10 percent plan?"
Chief Justice John Roberts:
"You're talking about the time — (we said in a 2003 decision) that we did not expect these sort of programs to be around in 25 years, and that was 12 years ago. Are we going to hit the deadline? Is this going to be done in your view in 12 years?"
Gregory Garre, representing the University of Texas:
"Your honor, I'm not here to give you a date, but what I would say is this: There are systematic problems that these problems — that these policies are attempting to address, including the test score gap between African-Americans and Hispanics. And the record in this case overwhelmingly shows that without the addition of race, student body diversity suffered, particularly among African-Americans."
Justice Samuel Alito:
"It's kind of the assumption that if a black student or a Hispanic student is admitted as part of the top 10 percent plan, it has to be because that student didn't have to compete against very many whites and Asians. In the high school class, it's a really pernicious stereotype."
Justice Anthony Kennedy:
"It does seem to me, as Justice Alito's question, and frankly some of the other questions have indicated, that the litigants, and frankly this Court, have been denied the advantage and the perspective that would be gained if there would be additional fact-finding under the instructions that Fisher sought to give. And that just — we're just arguing the same case."
Justice Antonin Scalia:
"There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less — a slower-track school where they do well."
"This Court heard and rejected that argument, with respect, Justice Scalia, in the Grutter case, a case that our opponents have not asked this Court to overrule. If you look at the academic performance of holistic minority admits versus the top 10 percent admits, over time, they fare better."
"What is it about this program that is going to change things, so that we can stop classifying people by race?"
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, representing the federal government:
"I think the universities do make progress on this, and I think you do get to a point where you create a virtuous cycle. And I think it does work, and I think that there's ample reason to believe that it does work."