Supporters of affirmative action fear that the Supreme Court could curtail or further restrict the use of race-conscious admissions policies at public universities.
On Wednesday, all eyes will be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose vote is considered pivotal in the case brought by a white Texan who has sued the University of Texas at Austin, claiming that she was denied admission to the school in 2008 because of her race. Abigail Fisher, who has since graduated from Louisiana State University, said she was subject to unequal treatment in violation of the 14th Amendment.
"I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong, and for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me," Fisher said in an interview clip posted on the website of the Project on Fair Representation, a legal defense foundation that's providing her with legal representation.
On the other side are lawyers for the University of Texas, who argue that, like many other universities, UT seeks to assemble a class that is diverse in innumerable ways -- including race -- and that "race is just one of many characteristics that form the mosaic presented by an applicant's file."
More than 90 friend of the court briefs have been filed in the case, with the Obama administration weighing in favor of the university. Others, who support Fisher, argue that diversity can be achieved through race-neutral programs, and that race-preferential admissions policies can do more harm than good.