• July 26, 2014

Student Supporters of Affirmative Action Rally on Supreme Court Steps

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Chronicle photograph by Alina Mogilyanskaya

Supporters of affirmative action in admissions said the practice expands educational opportunity.

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Chronicle photograph by Alina Mogilyanskaya

Supporters of affirmative action in admissions said the practice expands educational opportunity.

After the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments today in the case of Fisher v. Texas, about 100 students, parents, and civil-rights advocates gathered on the court's steps to rally in support of the University of Texas at Austin's admissions policy at issue and of diversity in the classroom.

In the first challenge to affirmative action to be brought before the court since Grutter v. Bollinger, in 2003, the justices are expected to rule on whether the university's consideration of race as an admissions criterion is constitutional. Among the notable speakers at the rally were Benjamin T. Jealous, president of the NAACP; the Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network; and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

"We are fighting for the inclusion of all," Mr. Sharpton said, "and that is what this case is all about." Addressing the students, many from minority backgrounds, who gathered around him to listen, he commended those who had traveled here to be present at the rally and likened them to those who traveled to the city for marches and rallies during the era of the civil-rights movement.

"We will keep coming," Mr. Sharpton said to cheers and applause, "until we make America the America it's supposed to be: one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Many students at the rally came from Texas, Michigan, and California, all states where affirmative-action battles have been fought in recent years. A number of students came up to the podium to voice their support for the importance of diversity in educational opportunity, while others held signs that read "out of MANY, one AMERICA" and "expand opportunity."

Many of the rally's speakers pointed to "diversity as a source of opportunity for the nation, not just individuals," said T. Beth Glenn, education director at the NAACP. She remarked that diversity in classrooms and universities was a strength.

The NAACP, among many other organizations, filed a brief with the court in support of the University of Texas' "holistic" admissions policy.

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