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Stanford responds to Supreme Court's affirmative action ruling

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling on race-conscious admissions processes in higher education. Stanford had joined other universities in submitting an amicus brief in the case.

In a closely watched case on affirmative action, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed colleges and universities to continue considering race and ethnicity in admissions, but said courts would apply a more rigorous and less deferential standard in assessing their admissions practices. 

The 7-1 ruling in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, sends the case back to an appellate court for further review of the Texas university's race-conscious admissions policies.

That review, and other judicial reviews of affirmative action programs, must apply a legal standard called "strict scrutiny" in order to "verify that it is necessary for a university to use race to achieve the educational benefits of diversity," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. 

"Stanford University is pleased that the Supreme Court in Fisher upheld its previous rulings in Bakke and Grutter that universities have a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body because the quality of students' education is greatly enriched if the student body is diverse in many ways, including racial and ethnic diversity," said Debra Zumwalt, Stanford vice president and general counsel.

Stanford last year joined 13 other private universities in a "friend of the court" brief that urged the Supreme Court to continue to allow educational institutions to take account of race and ethnicity as one part of the individualized review of student applications for admission.

"This decision allows Stanford to continue to evaluate candidates for admission to Stanford in a holistic, individualized process that produces a student body that is talented and diverse in many ways, including intellectual interests, geography, socio-economic status, background, experience, perspective and areas of accomplishment," Stanford President John Hennessy said.

The ruling Monday produced a range of analyses from across the political spectrum. For its part, the university at the center of the case, UT Austin, issued a statement from its president saying he was "encouraged" by the ruling.

"We will continue to defend the University's admission policy on remand in the lower court under the strict standards that the Court first articulated in the Bakke case, reaffirmed in the Grutter case, and laid out again today," UT Austin President Bill Powers said. "We believe the University's policy fully satisfies those standards."