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Decisions based on race or ethnic origin by faculties and administrations of state universities are reviewable under the Fourteenth Amendment. Redressing past discrimination can not serve as a compelling interest, because a university’s broad mission of education is incompatible with making the judicial, legislative, or administrative findings of constitutional or statutory violations necessary to justify remedial racial classification. The attainment of a diverse student body, by contrast, serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes.
Petitioner applicant sued respondents, a state university and school officials, alleging that the university’s consideration of race in admissions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. A district court granted summary judgment to respondents. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed. A writ of certiorari was granted.
Did the appellate court err by not applying strict scrutiny in deciding whether state university's consideration of race in admissions process violated Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause?
The Supreme Court found that the court of appeals' expressions of the controlling standard were at odds with Grutter's command that all racial classifications imposed by government must have been analyzed by a reviewing court under strict scrutiny. Grutter did not hold that good faith would forgive an impermissible consideration of race. Strict scrutiny did not permit a court to accept a school’s assertion that its admissions process used race in a permissible way without a court giving close analysis to the evidence of how the process worked in practice. The higher education dynamic did not change the narrow tailoring analysis of strict scrutiny applicable in other contexts. The district court and court of appeals confined the strict scrutiny inquiry in too narrow a way by deferring to the university’s good faith in its use of racial classifications. The court of appeals did not apply the correct standard of strict scrutiny.