On February 24th, the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers (MABL) and the MSBA co-sponsored a panel discussion on affirmative action and the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, which is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. The panel was moderated by Ms. Kiesha Mayes (Gray Plant Mooty).The panelists included Professor Carl Warren (University of Minnesota Law School), Ms. Ngeri Azuewah (Student, University of St. Thomas School of Law), and Ms. Amran Farah (Waldeck Law Firm PA).
Plaintiff Abigail Fisher was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin and challenged the constitutionality of UT’s admission policies, which considered a multitude of factors, including race, when an applicant was not in the top 10 percent of their high school class. In oral arguments this past December Chief Justice Roberts asked: “What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?” Justice Antonin Scalia stated: “There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.” Warren argued that the justices’ troubling questions revealed the illogical analysis that has begun to characterize US affirmative action jurisprudence—“forcing minority students to prove their presence would offer a unique contribution.” Warren also noted that the justices’ comments suggested “something a lot more malevolent than delusions of a post-racial society—they harken back to prior arguments of “separate but equal.”
At this critical juncture for affirmative action, panelists emphasized its continued importance. In Mayes’ words, “Enough is enough when institutions look like our world.”