Affirmative Action in Education

This guide explores the history of affirmative action in education.

Available Readings

Supreme Court Cases

Inside the United States Supreme Court

Inside the United States Supreme Court (Wikimedia Commons)

US Supreme Court ruled against Harvard and the University of North Carolina in 2023 for the unconstitutional use of race in college admissions decisions. The implications of this decision make it unlawful for public universities 

Abigail Fisher, a white woman, challenged the university's consideration of race in the undergraduate admissions process after being denied admission to UT Austin in 2008. She argued the decision violated her right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court's ruling ultimately clarified Grutter v. Bollinger, stating race could not be a factor in university admissions unless "available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice," and then the decision would come up against strict scrutiny.

Barbara Grutter, a white woman, was denied admission to University of Michigan Law School and claimed discrimination due to her race and the school's use of race as a factor in admission decisions. The Court found the law school had an interest in pursuing a more racially diverse body and was allowed to use affirmative action as a "tailored use." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor implied that affirmative action would not necessarily be a permanent status.

Allan Bakke, a white man, sued the University of California (UC) Davis Medical School for rejecting him in favor of minority students with lesser qualifications. The university's quota system reserved space for 16 racial minority admissions and 84 white admissions (for a total of 100 students admitted). The Supreme Court ruled UC Davis's Medical School' racial quote system violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.



For more books/information from our library catalog and the following OSU law databases search:

  • Affirmative action programs -- United States
  • Affirmative action programs in education -- United States
  • Discrimination in higher education -- United States
  • Universities and colleges -- United States -- Admission