From growing up in the projects with an alcoholic father to graduating from Princeton University, where she was accepted thanks to a new affirmative action program at the time, Sonia Sotomayor's journey to the Supreme Court was not an easy or traditional one. She chronicles her life in her new book "My Beloved World."
Soledad sits down with Justice Sotomayor to talk about her world and her past.
Transcript available after the jump.
The case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin before the U.S. Supreme Court today could officially do away with affirmative action as we know it. The case could result in a rare 4-4 tie because Justice Elena Kagan has recused herself. But the issue is hardly new.
White student Abigail Noel Fisher sued the University of Texas after her college application was rejected in 2008. Texas provides admission for students in the top 10% of high school and the rest of the applicants are in a pool where race is taken into consideration. CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, author of "The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court," joins Soledad on “Starting Point” this morning with more on the case and its possible outcome.
Affirmative action came up in another case in 2003, when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor decided that race may be used as one factor in admissions. The current case is a direct challenge to that decision.
The main difference between this case and the original case in 2003 is “the Supreme Court is different.”
“The facts are not significantly different. Every court that has looked at this issue since 2003 has simply followed Justice O’Conner’s instructions,” Toobin says. “Certainly the only implication you can draw by the fact that the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case is at least some justices think Justice O’Conner was wrong and they want to get rid of the consideration of race and affirmative action in university admissions.”
“This case really focuses on the 14th Amendment, and basically what Ms. Fischer says is, ‘Look, by considering race, you are not treating individuals as individuals. You are using racial categories, and that’s what the 14th Amendment was designed to combat,’” Toobin adds.
Toobin says the university disagrees and is arguing that “the educational environment is richer, is made better” through affirmative action.
The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Fisher v. The University of Texas today, an important case that will decide whether the University's race-conscious admissions policy violates the rights of some white applicants.
Specifically, the case concerns Abigail Fisher, a UT applicant who was denied admission and is arguing that the University's policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it allows officials to consider race when making admission decisions.
At the University of Texas, the top 10% of each high school class statewide is granted admission automatically. For those below the top ten percent, like Abigail Fisher, who was in the 11th percent, the University uses what it calls a "holistic review," where race is one of many factors considered.
University President Bill Powers says that race doesn't get much weight in the consideration, and and didn't play a role in Fisher's rejection.
On Starting Point this morning, Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, who served as a defendant in two Supreme Court cases on affirmative action when he was president of the University of Michigan from 1996 to 2002, points out that the University of Texas' 10 percent policy is "unique to higher education."
"This case involves an usual set of facts," Bollinger says. "No other university uses that so it’s possible that the court just wants to look at that particular policy."
Bollinger also explains why he supports affirmative action, saying, "This is something that is part of the tradition in the United States of bringing people together from different life experiences to create a better, richer educational environment so all the students who are admitted to schools basically can do the work. We know that. They’re the very top students and within a pool of candidates and that’s how we select our student bodies."
CNN education contributor Steve Perry on the ongoing affirmative action issue in higher education, and weighs in on if 'legacy' entrants to colleges could be hindering equal access to education.