In the court’s words

From Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion for the court:

“The reviewing court must ultimately be satisfied that no workable race-neutral alternatives would produce the educational benefits of diversity. Rather than perform this searching examination, the Fifth Circuit held petitioner could challenge only whether the University’s decision to use race as an admissions factor ‘was made in good faith.’ It presumed that the school had acted in good faith and gave petitioner the burden of rebutting that presumption. It thus undertook the narrow tailoring requirement with a ‘degree of deference’ to the school. These expressions of the controlling standard are at odds with Grutter’s command that ‘all racial classifications imposed by government must be analyzed by a reviewing court under strict scrutiny.’ … Strict scrutiny does not permit a court to accept a school’s assertion that its admissions process uses race in a permissible way without closely examining how the process works in practice, yet that is what the District Court and Fifth Circuit did here.”

From Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurrence, which said the court should have gone farther, and struck down affirmative action:

“… The University’s discrimination ‘stamp[s] [blacks and Hispanics] with a badge of inferiority.’ It taints the accomplishments of all those who are admitted as a result of racial discrimination. Although cloaked in good intentions, the University’s racial tinkering harms the very people it claims to be helping.”

From Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion:

“I would not return this case for a second look. As the thorough opinions below show … the university’s admissions policy flexibly considers race only as a ‘factor of a factor of a factor of a factor’ in the calculus … ; followed a yearlong review through which the University reached the reasonable, good-faith judgment that supposedly race-neutral initiatives were insufficient to achieve, in appropriate measure, the educational benefits of student body diversity … ; and is subject to periodic review to ensure that the consideration of race remains necessary and proper to achieve the university’s educational objectives,