The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, marking the first time in a decade the high court has heard a case challenging the constitutionality of affirmative action admission policies at institutions of higher education. 
The outcome of this case will likely extend far beyond the University of Texas (UT) admissions system, and could impact private institutions like Bowdoin. However, the Court’s decision is not expected until early 2013, and would not impact Bowdoin’s admissions process for the Class of 2017.
The College is among thirty-seven institutions that signed an amicus brief in support of the University of Texas, submitted to the Supreme Court last April. 
If the court rules that taking race into account is unconstitutional, private institutions like Bowdoin will be forced to change their policies, due to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial discrimination in any programs receiving federal funding. As recently as 2003, the Supreme Court upheld programs that consider race as part of a “holistic review” of applicants’ qualifications. 
The amicus brief signed by Bowdoin and its NESCAC peers urges the court to continue allowing colleges and universities to admit students who “will, individually and collectively, take fullest advantage of what the college has to offer, contribute the most to the educational process, and use what they have learned for the benefit of the larger society.”
UT-Austin’s current policy automatically admits all Texan applicants who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school class. In filling the remaining spots, the university considers race as one of many competing factors.  The goal of the admissions process is to enroll students who will “provide leadership to the state,” according to a statement made by UT-Austin’s director of admissions to The New York Times.  
Bowdoin’s admission philosophy is similar to UT-Austin’s in that it aims to admit students from a diversity of backgrounds and walks of life.  Like the UT system, the race of an applicant is one of many factors considered. For Dean of Admissions Scott Meiklejohn, a diverse student body is an essential component of Bowdoin’s liberal arts mission. 
“Bowdoin is interested in educating a group of talented young leaders who will be good for the world,” he said.
Though the College is strongly invested in the outcome of this case, the admissions office has not yet crafted an alternate plan if the Court rules against affirmative action.  
Most of the admissions staff travels around the country recruiting applicants in the fall.
“We’re not making a Plan B now,” said Meiklejohn. “We’re all obviously reading the news. Even if I wanted to get my staff together to talk about this,  I couldn’t.”