Supreme Court to Rehear Fisher Case

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The future of race in admissions is once again headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court announced Monday that it will rehear the case of Abigail Fisher, who sued UT after she was denied admission in 2008.

If this story gives you déjà vu, you aren’t alone. Here’s a quick recap of the game of judicial ping-pong so far.

  • 2008: Fisher’s application for undergraduate admission to UT is denied. She sues the university, alleging that she didn’t get in because UT considers race in admissions (she is white) and that to do so is unconstitutional. The bigger question at issue: May U.S. universities continue to use race in admissions?
  • 2009-2011: The case wends its way up through the court system, with both the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of UT. Fisher’s legal team continues to appeal.
  • 2012: Fisher graduates from Louisiana State University. She now works in Austin as a financial analyst.
  • 2013: The Supreme Court punts the case back down to a lower court, leaving the question open.
  • 2014: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals rules in UT’s favor a second time.
  • 2015: The Supreme Court announces it will hear the case again.

The court’s decision to take up the case again could potentially indicate a willingness to rule decisively this time. Of course, the Fisher case is only one of many race-in-admissions cases to make it to the nation’s highest court over the years: In 1996’s Hopwood v. Texas, the court ruled that affirmative action for the sake of diversity is unconstitutional, but that decision was overturned in 2003 with Grutter v. Bollinger, which stated that race may be used in admissions as long as there is no quota or point system. UT and all other American universities have been abiding by that ruling ever since. (Read our TXEXplainer on the case for more context.)

UT president Greg Fenves issued a statement Monday morning defending the university’s position:

Under the Supreme Court’s existing precedent, the university’s commitment to using race as one factor in an individualized, holistic admissions policy allows us to assemble a student body that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity for all students. Our admissions policy is narrowly tailored, constitutional and has been upheld by the courts multiple times. We look forward to making our arguments before the Supreme Court later this year.

Edward Blum, whose Project for Fair Representation represents Fisher, also released a statement praising her “courage and tenacity” in continuing the case.

“It is a terrible shame that Abby and thousands of UT applicants have been unfairly treated because of their race and ethnicity,” Blum said. “The outcome of this case may bring our nation closer to the day when a student’s race and ethnicity is not a factor that a school may consider during the admissions process.”

Editor’s Note: The Texas Exes takes no position on the use of race in admissions.

Photo by Anna Donlan

 

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