The case has been several years coming. In 2008, a white Sugar Land senior named Abigail Fisher applied to The University of Texas. After she was denied admission, she went on to LSU but sued UT, arguing that its consideration of race was unconstitutional. The federal district court upheld UT’s admissions system as compliant with the national legal precedent set in 2003.
Because she hadn’t graduated in the top 10 percent of her high school class, Fisher wasn’t eligible for automatic admission. (Currently, 75 percent of the UT slots reserved for Texas students must be filled by “automatically admissible” students from the top 10 percent of their class.) Fisher wasn’t accepted in the holistic review of her application, either. (All applicants outside the top 10 percent received a holistic review back then, and all applicants receive one now no matter their percentage ranking).
In a statement, president Bill Powers expressed UT’s commitment to a diverse student body. While the state’s Top 10 Percent Law drives most of the university’s admissions, “it is vital for the university to weigh a multitude of factors when making admissions decisions about the balance of students who will make up each entering class.”
He added, “We must have the flexibility to consider each applicant’s unique experiences and background so we can provide the best environment in which to educate and train the students who will be our nation’s future leaders.
Last month, as the Fisher case loomed large over campus, The Alcalde convened a roundtable on the larger issue of race in admissions. Sweatt v. Painter, Hopwood v. Texas, Grutter v. Bollinger, and the rest of the cases that have decided education policy regarding race over the years—many centered on Texas—cast a long shadow, too.
UT’s director of admissions and VP of diversity and community engagement participated, as did professors of law and education and key alumni and philanthropists like Joe and Teresa Lozano Long.
Look for the all-the-more-timely roundtable in the March|April issue of the magazine and coming shortly online.
Photo via Flickr Creative Commons user OZinOH.
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Kay Gresham Szabo: