Nine years after the Supreme Court upheld the use of affirmative action in college admissions, the High Court once again took up the issue Wednesday.
"The impact of this decision will be way beyond the boundaries of the University of Texas," Rev. Al Sharpton said.
But petitioner Abigail Fisher, the woman behind this most recent chapter of the polarizing debate, says it is quite simple.
"I hope the court rules that a student's race and ethnicity should not be considered when applying to the University of Texas," she said.
During arguments, which went a full 20 minutes over the allotted, one hour time frame, the court's more conservative justices pressed the University of Texas at Austin for a limit—when it will meet its "critical mass"? When will they reach “enough” diversity?
"The idea of critical mass took on an incredible high degree of salience today,” Tejinder Singh of SCOTUS Blog said. “The inability to offer an objective set of indicators is going to be damaging to the University here."
U.T. officials argued secondary racial consideration is necessary because their top ten percent plan—giving automatic admissions to students at the top of their high school classes—failed to adequately bring in enough minority students to avoid racial isolation and provide students with a rich diverse, learning environment.
"We have made a great deal of progress and throughout the United States, but there is still is a need to make sure that our campuses, our military and our businesses are diverse," U.T. president Bill Powers said.
The consensus among many present during arguments is that there will likely be some change to affirmative action policies as a result of this case.
"I think it's very difficult to count four votes for upholding the university's program,” Singh said. “The most likely result is that the program will be overruled in part."
The vote is expected to turn on Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose questions during arguments were quite critical of U.T.'s policy.
Justice Elena Kagan is recused from the case, which means if Kennedy votes to uphold U.T.'s policy, which many feel is unlikely, the court will be split four to four, meaning the University's policy stands.