The Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday about diversity in higher education and how much of a role, if any, the courts should have in determining how admissions officers consider race in their college acceptance decisions, our colleague Adam Liptak reports:
The questioning was exceptionally sharp, but the member of the court who probably holds the decisive vote, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, tipped his hand only a little, asking a few questions that indicated discomfort with at least some race-conscious admissions programs. He told a lawyer for the University of Texas at Austin, which was challenged over its policies, that he was uncomfortable with its efforts to attract privileged minorities.
“What you’re saying,” Justice Kennedy said, “is what counts is race above all.”
He asked a lawyer for Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the university, whether the modest racial preferences used by the university crossed a constitutional line. Then he proposed an answer to his own question.
“Are you saying that you shouldn’t impose this hurt, this injury, for so little benefit?” he asked.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized the central question in the case. “At what point — when — do we stop deferring to the university’s judgment that race is still necessary?” she asked. “That’s the bottom line of this case.”
There are four basic possible outcomes in the case, Fisher v. University of Texas, No. 11-345, Mr. Liptak reports:
- The Supreme Court could decline to make a decision if it agrees with the University of Texas that the plaintiff, Ms. Fisher, did not suffer legitimate injuries from its admissions policy and therefore does not have grounds to sue.
- The court could uphold affirmative action by determining that the admissions policy at the University of Texas is constitutional.
- The justices could decide that institutions may not make race-conscious admissions decisions if their race-neutral admissions choices have already created a substantially diverse student body.
- The Supreme Court could ban affirmative action in college admissions, a decision that would overrule the 2003 decision Grutter v. Bollinger.
If the justices decide to strike down the longstanding practice of affirmative action in college admissions, it could greatly affect whom colleges choose to admit and why, as The Choice reported on Tuesday.
The publisher OR Books announced on Sunday that it had acquired “Cypherpunks,” a new book about freedom and the Internet by Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. Mr. Assange, who was granted asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in August, wrote the book with three other authors: Jacob Appelbaum, Jérémie Zimmermann and Andy Müller-Maguhn. The book will go on sale Nov. 26 in paperback and as an e-book. Mr. Assange said in a statement that he wrote the book in response to his longstanding worries about government control of the Internet and surveillance. “In March 2012 I gathered together three of today’s leading cypherpunks to discuss the resistance,” he said. “Two of them, besides myself, have been targeted by law enforcement agencies as a result of their work to safeguard privacy and to keep government accountable. Their words, and their stories, need to be heard.”
With nearly half of all suicides in the military having been committed with privately owned firearms, the Pentagon and Congress are moving to establish policies intended to separate at-risk service members from their personal weapons.
The issue is a thorny one for the Pentagon, with gun-rights advocates and many service members fiercely opposing any policies that could be construed as limiting the private ownership of firearms.
But with suicides continuing to rise this year, senior Defense Department officials are developing a suicide prevention campaign that will encourage friends and families of potentially suicidal service members to safely store or voluntarily remove personal firearms from their homes.
“This is not about authoritarian regulation,” Dr. Jonathan Woodson, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said in an interview. “It is about the spouse understanding warning signs and, if there are firearms in the home, responsibly separating the individual at risk from the firearm.”
Dr. Woodson, who declined to provide details, said the campaign would be introduced over the coming months. He said that it would also include measures to encourage service members, their friends and relatives to remove possibly dangerous prescription drugs from the home of potentially suicidal troops.
In another step considered significant by suicide-prevention advocates, Congress appears poised to enact legislation that would allow military mental health counselors and commanders to talk to troops about their private firearms. The measure, which is promoted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, would amend a law enacted in 2011 that prohibited the Defense Department from collecting information from service members about lawfully owned firearms kept at home.