WASHINGTON, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case brought by a white student against a Texas university which could bring an end to the practice of using racial criteria in determining admissions at American colleges and universities.
And if remarks uttered on the bench Wednesday are any indication, the end of that practice may indeed be near.
Justices heard arguments from attorneys representing the University of Texas and Abigail Fisher, a woman who says she was refused admission to the Austin school in 2008 in part because she is Caucasian.
Affirmative action programs, which have been in place for years at many U.S. colleges and universities, are intended to produce a more robust representation of different cultures on campuses and offer opportunities to minority students who may not have had the same academic inroads experienced by some white students.
The programs, though, have endured criticism and controversy since their implementation. Fisher's attorneys claim the program at the University of Texas violates the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
"There were people in my class with lower grades who weren't in all the activities I was in, and who were being accepted into [Texas], and the only other difference between us was the color of our skin," Fisher said previously.
After long and often terse arguments Wednesday, some Supreme Court justices appeared to question whether the program at the University of Texas is in accordance with the Constitution, The New York Times reported.
"I don't think it stands to reason that it's a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible," he added.
In fact, Scalia suggested that attaining a racial preference in admissions might even be detrimental to some minority students.
"Most of the black scientists in this country don't come from schools like the University of Texas," he said. "They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they're being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them."
Scalia and other justices asked lawyers for the university several questions Wednesday in a session that lasted 95 minutes. Arguments before the court typically last an hour.
"What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?" Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., asked at one point.
Gregory Garre, an attorney for the university, implored the high court to allow the practice of allowing schools to determine their own admissions criteria to continue.
"Now is not the time and this is not the case to roll back student body diversity in America," he said.
If the court does rule on the matter, observers say it's likely Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy will cast the deciding vote -- as he has already represented the swing vote on many of the court's close decisions over the years.
At one point Wednesday, Kennedy suggested that perhaps more evidence should be collected and argued before a lower trial court, but later seemed to back off that proposal, the Times report said.