WASHINGTON — Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she supports affirmative action in higher education because she believes that alternatives based on geographic or economic status don't work to ensure a diverse student body.
Sotomayor has said race-conscious programs in the 1970s that opened Ivy League schools to minorities were essential to her rise from the Bronx public housing projects to her admission to Princeton and Yale Law School, where she excelled.
Sotomayor, the court's first Latina, was asked by George Stephanopoulos in a segment on ABC's This Week about programs that might increase diversity in higher education that would be "less fractious" than the use of race.
She said that other programs have not proved as successful in diversifying student bodies and that universities should be able to consider race and not just academic measurements.
"What does qualifications mean in an academic setting?" she said. "A place like Princeton could fill their entire beginning freshman class with students who have scored perfectly on undergraduate metrics.
"They don't do it because it would not make for a diverse class on the metrics that they think are important for success in life."
It is unusual for Supreme Court justices to appear on television, although most make exceptions when they have a book to promote. Sotomayor has been active in promoting her memoir, My Beloved World, which came out in paperback this year.
She told Stephanopoulos what she has told other interviewers — that she wrote the book to remind herself of the "real Sonia."
"I've told my friends that if I get too full of myself, I wrote a really thick book so you could hit me over the head with it," she said.
"The hardcover one," Stephanopoulos said.
"The hardcover one, exactly," the justice replied.