The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to an affirmative action admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin on Thursday, in a 4-3 vote.
Justice Elena Kagan recused herself for her prior work on the case.
Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, along with justices Ruth Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. dissented along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.
“A university is in large part defined by those intangible ‘qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make from greatness,'” Kennedy wrote, quoting a desegregation case. “Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission.”
In his dissent, Justice Alito denounced the ruling, claiming that the university didn’t demonstrate the need for race-based admissions and that the program benefited advantaged students rather than impoverished ones.
“This is affirmative action gone berserk,” Alito said.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch expressed her pleasure with the decision in a statement:
AG Lynch "pleased" that SCOTUS upheld affirmative action program at UT "ensuring diversity in higher education." pic.twitter.com/kWeemhfdKV
— ABC News (@ABC) June 23, 2016
The case concerned the university’s admissions program, where most in-state applicants are admitted under a program that guarantees admission to top students in every high school statewide.
In 2011, 26 percent of freshmen who enrolled under the program were Hispanic, with six percent being African-American.
Specifically, the challenge came from the standards remaining students were considered under including academic achievement, race, and ethnicity.
Abigail Fisher, a white women who brought the case, claimed that the University of Texas denied her admission based on her race.