The U.S. Supreme Court handed the University only a partial victory yesterday, but many other colleges had more to celebrate.

A university’s ability to consider the race of an applicant, until yesterday, had depended on its geographic location. Lower court decisions had banned affirmative action in Texas, Georgia Louisiana, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi.

University of Texas law Prof. Douglas Laycock said all that has now changed – at least for Texas, unable to consider race since the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals’ 2000 decision in the Texas v. Hopwood case.

Hopwood is gone,” Laycock said. “This is a huge win that completely supplants Hopwood.”

Texas now can return to a race-conscious system, likely using the University of Michigan’s Law School system as a model, he said.

Laycock said that means a clear-cut victory for affirmative action supporters across the country, despite the nuances and divisions of the Supreme Court’s ruling and its rejection of the LSA admissions policy.

“As long as there’s one way race can be considered, it doesn’t matter how many other ways there are,” he said.

At the University of Georgia, Vice President of Instruction Del Dunn had a more cautious reaction.

“We’re going to have to have our attorneys take a look at it,” he said. “There’s some ambiguities.”

He estimated a full legal analysis could take a year – and in the mean time, Georgia admissions will continue to be race-blind.

Applicants for the class of Fall 2004 will have to get in on the merits of their grade point averages, high-school curiculums and standardized test scores, just as they have for the two years since the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals said using race was unconstitutional.

Georgia’s student body is 5 to 6 percent black despite its home state’s black population of 28 to 29 percent, Dunn said. That’s not a result of affirmative action’s disappearance though: minority numbers have actually risen since the school went race-blind, thanks in part to more aggressive minority recruitment.

Billy Joyner, Georgia’s Young Democrats president, said the university may need a push from his group and other supporters of affirmative action before it re-instates the policies.

“It’s a fairly conservative school,” he said, noting the university did not appeal the 11th Circuit’s decision or file a brief in the Supreme Court on behalf of the University of Michigan. “I’m not sure how eager they’ll be. We will certainly be putting pressure on them.”

At Texas, where administrators may be more eager to bring back race-conscious admissions, it is conservatives who are now on the defensive.

With the court’s decision, Young Conservatives of Texas chapter President Austin Kinghorn said, “We’re suspending the 14th Amendment. We’re suspending equal protection.”

Without knowing how the administration will decide to proceed, Kinghorn wasn’t sure how his group will respond and predicted a return to racial preferences. “It may be a losing battle, at least for today, but we’re going to keep fighting the war,” he said.

Wary administrators and conservative students aren’t the only hurdles for schools looking to return to their old policies. In many states, government has gotten involved.

Unable to consider race, states such as Texas and Florida created “percent plans,” guaranteeing admission to a state college for the top tier of students at every high school. President Bush touted the plans as a race-blind alternative to the University’s system.

Laycock said the Ten Percent Plan in Texas likely enjoys enough political support to continue even though schools can once again use race. “I don’t think it’s going to go away,” he said.

Seventy percent of Texas’s students in Austin are admitted under the plan, Laycock said.

That leaves few spots for the students whose unique talents should be considered separately from their class rank, especially those in the schools of art, dance and architecture, Texas student Brian Haley said.

Haley, president of the Texas student body, said this flaw in the percent plan makes the court’s ruling welcome.

“It’s almost like we’re admitting students under one criteria” under the percent plan, he said.

Even if the legislature and governor prove unwilling to eliminate the law, changes still may be in store. For example, some Republicans in the state want to cap the number of students that can get in to a school purely based on their class rank.

Democratic state Sen. Royce West, chair of the Senate’s higher education subcommittee, wants the Texas legislature to take a new look at the plan. He said he would depend on college administrators’ advice on what the law’s future should be now that race-conscious admissions are legal.

“It’s premature to do away with the program,” he said. “We can put it on the table and figure out whether there should be a combination of the two,” he said, referring to affirmative action and the percent plan.

In California and Washington, affirmative action supporters face a formidable roadblock – voter initiatives that have successfully banned race-conscious college admissions. The court’s decision thus has no immediate effect in those states.

But University of California at Berkeley student Ronald Cruz said the court’s decision could make it more likely that Proposition 209, California’s 1996 voter initiative, will be reversed. His group, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, is considering new legal action in the state, he said.

Perhaps the most important result of the court’s decision for his state, he said, is that the biggest victory has now been won.

“We’ve already wrested a pro-affirmative action ruling from a very conservative court, so we’re confident we can win in California,” he said.

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