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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Supreme Court Hears Affirmative Action Case

Abigail Fisher claims the University of Texas unfairly disciminated against her because she is white.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday regarding the legality of affirmative action in college admissions decisions.

The case was brought to the court by Abigail Fisher, 22, who sued the University of Texas in 2008, claiming that racial preferences in the admissions decision unfairly discriminated against her.

"I hope the court rules a student's race and ethnicity should not be considered when applying to the University of Texas," said Fisher.

The issue of race in college admissions has been a contentious one and has generated landmark rulings like Grutter vs. Bollinger in 2003 and the Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke in 1978. The former ruled that affirmative action was constitutional while the latter held that racial quotas in the admissions process were unconstitutional.

Fisher hopes that the Supreme Court overturns Grutter vs. Bollinger and eliminates race from the list of acceptable criteria in college admissions decisions.

Such a divisive issue has generated strong opinions on both sides of the debate, and President Obama through his press secretary re-affirmed his support for affirmative action.

"President Obama has said that while he opposes quotas and thinks an emphasis on universal and not-race specific programs is good policy, considering race along with other factors can be appropriate in certain circumstances," said Jay Carney.

Students at USC offered their own take on race in the admissions decision. Student Nicole Marcione said that affirmative action not only corrects systemic injustice but improves the overall quality of student life.

"I look around, I see a lot of different colors and faces and nationalities. You even hear a lot of different languages, which is nice," said Marcione, who added, "I think that's really important to be able to level the playing field a little bit for all students and to also help the people in those communities to be able to break out of a constant low income or lower class."

Student Hazi Baulch wondered if affirmative action was truly fair.

"What happens is that [white kids] get better grades than people who are from different races and then they don't get into schools when the people who have lower grades do get into schools," said Baulch. "I think it has to be a fair competition."

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling before this term concludes in June 2013.

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