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SCOTUS in the Classroom Case #1: Fisher v. University of Texas

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SCOTUS in the Classroom Case #1: Fisher v. University of Texas

During the 2015–16 term, Street Law will select three of the most classroom-relevant, student-friendly cases being argued in the U.S. Supreme Court and provide teachers with everything they need to conduct moot courts of each. 

Our first case is Fisher v. University of Texas. This case considers whether the University of Texas’s admission system, which considers the race of some applicants, is constitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Affirmative action in higher education (the practice of making a conscious effort to enroll more minority applicants) has been a controversial issue in America for decades. Supporters of affirmative action argue that race-conscious admissions are necessary because they help to correct a long history of racism and discrimination in America. Opponents often contend that the best way to correct a history of discrimination is to make all admissions decisions without looking at race.

Some people think that affirmative action in higher education violates the U.S. Constitution. The Fourteenth Amendment says, in part, that states cannot “deny to any person … the equal protection of the laws.” Therefore, any government action—such as the admissions process at public colleges and universities—that treats people differently based on their race may violate the Equal Protection Clause. The Supreme Court has ruled that some affirmative action programs are acceptable because public universities gain important educational benefits by creating a diverse student body. But the courts always look carefully about how these universities try to create a diverse student body. This case, being considered at the Supreme Court for the second time in three years, will enable students to debate the broad concept of affirmative action and the legalities of the University of Texas’ application system.  

The case will be argued on December 9, 2015, and Street Law will post case materials by November 23 on the SCOTUS in the Classroom program page. Teachers and students are encouraged to hold moot courts of the case the same week that the Supreme Court hears argument, which means students can follow discussion and analysis in the news and listen to or read a transcript of the actual oral arguments at the Court.

Learn more

Supreme Court Summer Institute for Teachers