Abigail Fisher, the white student who was rejected by the University of Texas and filed suit against the school challenging its affirmative action policy, says she's happy with the Supreme Court's decision to send her case back to a lower court.
Although the justices didn't exactly rule in her favor, Fisher and Edward Blum, the conservative activist and American Enterprise Institute fellow who's been the driving force behind her case, claimed the 7-1 ruling as a victory.
"Of course we're happy with it," Fisher said. "You know, they gave us everything that we asked for, and I'm very confident that UT won't be able to use race again."
The justices sent the case back to be re-examined by the Fifth Circuit federal appeals court on the grounds that the lower court did not review the university's affirmative action program carefully enough.
The justices ruled that the lower court should have required the university to prove that its program was narrowly tailored enough to produce the diversity objectives it was designed to achieve. They said "race-neutral" options must be unworkable for race-based affirmative-action policies to stand.
In the majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that the University of Texas must prove "the means chosen by a University to attain diversity are narrowly tailored to that goal" and that "the reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity."
Fisher said just being part of the process of taking a case to the Supreme Court was an education in itself.
"It's just been a great journey and a very great learning experience to see a case go all the way up to the Supreme Court," she said.
Blum acknowledged that the case isn't over, but he brushed aside some optimism expressed by supporters of affirmative action.
"The Court's opinion suggests that schools currently using racial preferences in admissions now should end those practices and instead institute race-neutral alternatives to achieve campus diversity," Blum said. "Those universities that continue using race-based affirmative action will likely find themselves embroiled in costly and polarizing litigation."
Blum said of his opposition: "If they're excited about this ruling, I think it's gravely misplaced."
Fisher, who was rejected by UT in 2008, instead went to Louisiana State University and has already graduated. Asked what she's doing now, Fisher said: "I have a job, I'm living in Austin now … I still bowl and everything, and I'm the country orchestra, so just living my life like a regular person."