American college and university officials are nervously wondering which court case the US Supreme Court will take to decide once and for all whether it is permissible to use race as a factor in college admissions.
They didn't get any relief from that tension yesterday.
The court's decision to let stand a University of Texas law school case that struck down race preferences in five states seems unlikely to shock - or hearten - supporters or detractors of race-based preferences in college admission.
"It will be greeted with a sigh of relief" in both camps, says Abigail Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank. "But those of us opposed to preferences are still waiting for the court to decide the substantive issues."
In the landmark Texas case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals let stand a lower-court decision that found that the goal of school diversity was not sufficient justification for the use of race-based preferences in selecting incoming freshmen.
That ruling was a bombshell for those favoring affirmative action in college admissions. But other cases, including one involving the University of Michigan undergraduate college and college of law, are still pending. The Michigan case appears to be ultimately headed for the Supreme Court.
The last Supreme Court ruling on the subject came in 1978, when the justices struck down racial quotas in school admissions policies, but allowed race to be considered in deciding which students to accept.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor