UT today filed its brief in the case of Fisher vs. University of Texas at Austin, which challenges the consideration of race in U.S. college admissions. It called the University’s use of ethnicity “narrow, necessary, and constitutional.”
The case, for which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in October, has been a long time coming. In 2008, Abigail Fisher, a white Sugar Land senior, was denied admission to the University. She went on to LSU, but sued UT, arguing that its consideration of race was unconstitutional.
Because she did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, Fisher wasn’t eligible for automatic admission. She was not accepted in the holistic review (in which all applicants’ full files—including the matter of race—are reviewed), either.
Fisher argues that she was denied admission because she is white. “The facts show otherwise,” the University wrote today in a statement announcing the brief’s filing.
UT says its admissions system promotes the educational benefits of diversity at the University. “UT has a broad vision of diversity, which looks to a wide variety of individual characteristics—including an applicant’s culture; language; family; educational, geographic, and socioeconomic background; work, volunteer, or internship experiences; leadership experiences; special artistic or other talents, as well as race and ethnicity,” the brief says.
The brief argues that the University’s policy meets the standards set out by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger and earlier in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. In Grutter, the Supreme Court ruled that public colleges and universities could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment but could take race into account in broader ways to ensure academic diversity. The Court’s decision earlier this year to hear the Fisher case has thrust affirmative action and race-based admissions back into public discourse.
The plaintiff argues that because of UT’s Top 10 Percent rule, the University can achieve a diverse student body without race-based policies. UT and other defenders of affirmative action argue that “because a university can achieve some diversity without the consideration of race and admissions does not mean that it may not also consider race and ethnicity to achieve a higher level of diversity.”
In a statement released in February, UT President Bill Powers said that it is vital for the University to weigh a multitude of factors when making admissions decisions. “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,” Powers said. He reaffirmed that message in a video today.
The Fisher case has been a contentious one. Groups that are critical of any use of race in admissions, such as the National Association of Scholars, have praised the Supreme Court’s decision to take it up. “The only way to usher in true racial equality in America is to end race-based discrimination,” said NAS chairman Stephen Balch. “There are many race-neutral ways of promoting equal opportunity on our college campuses, and we urge the Court to choose these instead.”
UT’s brief argues that applicants of any race can benefit from the University’s holistic admissions system, which considers an applicant’s race in the context of his or her entire file.
Amicus briefs in support of the University will be filed Aug. 13, and the case will be argued Oct. 10.
Photo courtesy Flickr user Wally Gobetz.
Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes has no position on the consideration of race in admissions and reports this story to keep readers informed about news and issues central to The University of Texas and its future.