So What Just Happened to Affirmative Action?

From the NAACP to the Advancement Project, those who were paying the closest attention to Monday's ruling weigh in.

A demonstration in support of affirmative action (Getty Images)

(The Root) — By now everyone has heard that the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas, the long-awaited case challenging the university’s consideration of race as one admissions factor to create a diverse student body.

In a 7-1 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, SCOTUS sent the case back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals for another look. The basis of the ruling: The majority said that the lower court failed to hold UT’s admissions plan to the strict legal standard set out in the landmark case Grutter v. Bollinger. But it upheld the principle that schools can consider race in achieving diversity.

So how are people who would like to see affirmative action survive supposed to feel? Happy? Disappointed? Hopeful? Relieved? Well, as you might expect, it’s complicated. We pulled together reactions from legal experts, court watchers and civil rights activists who scrutinized the decision and its potential impact on educational diversity and opportunity.

Victory for a Diverse America

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called the decision “an important victory for our nation’s ongoing work to build a more inclusive, diverse America” and predicted that the UT policy “will ultimately be upheld by the Court of Appeals,” adding, “In reaffirming that a diverse learning environment benefits students, our workforce and the country as a whole, the ruling makes it clear that now is the time to expand our commitment to diversity in all of our institutions to ensure that we are well-positioned to compete in the diverse economy of the 21st century.”

A Check-Engine Light

David Hinojosa of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund told the Atlantic, “This is basically like a check-engine light has come on, and without looking under the hood you said, ‘Throw away the car,’ ” he said. “The court said, ‘No, let’s look under the hood.’ It might be a faulty light or it might just need a tune-up, but you definitely don’t need to just discard the car altogether.”

A Surprisingly Narrow Ruling

The Constitutional Accountability Center’s Civil Rights Director David Gans said the court “backed away from the edge of the cliff” with today’s ruling. “The court surprised most court watchers by issuing an extremely narrow decision. The justices did not decide the constitutionality of the university’s use of race in admissions, the big question at the heart of this case,” he said.