Arguing Race in Admissions (Again): Coverage of the Fisher Appeal Hearing

As Abigail Fisher’s lawsuit against The University of Texas nears its sixth year, the nation is still deeply divided on the use of race in admissions. Here’s what the media is saying after lawyers for both sides made their cases at yesterday’s hearing.


In 2008, Abigail Fisher was denied admission to The University of Texas. She sued the University for discrimination, alleging that she didn’t get in because she is white. Nearly six years later, the justice system is still grappling with the case, which could decide the future of race in admissions.

The Supreme Court sent the landmark case back to a lower court in June. The decision ordered strict scrutiny to be applied in the case, meaning that the University must prove that using race in admissions is the best way to achieve a diverse student body. At a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals hearing yesterday, lawyers for UT tried to do just that, while Fisher’s attorney rebutted their arguments. Here’s what media outlets around the state are saying.

As expected, UT made the argument that it has already tried and failed to achieve a sufficiently diverse student body without considering race. The Austin-American Statesman summarized that claim:

UT lawyer Gregory Garre said the school spent seven years without considering race, and by 2004 its African American enrollment had fallen by almost half, while Hispanic enrollment was stagnant at best. Recognizing that diversity helps all students prepare for life in the work force, UT began applying a limited consideration of race in its admissions process, he said.

Fisher’s attorney rebutted that line of reasoning. As the Texas Tribune reported, the Fisher team argued that considering race hasn’t worked for UT.

Fisher’s lawyer, Bert Rein, argued that there was no evidence to suggest that the university had exhausted alternative options before turning to race to help improve campus diversity. He also contended that the current admissions system had done little to improve diversity in UT’s classrooms.

“When you are achieving minimal results, the obvious conclusion is there are alternative ways to do it that won’t create this kind of labeling,” Rein later explained to reporters.

Meanwhile, UT president Bill Powers told KUT he’s staying optimistic:

“The Supreme Court did not say we cannot use ethnicity. They sent it it back to make sure the right standard was used. … We are optimistic that we will prevail because we have followed the constitution. … I think we need to have that flexibility as we go forward to address diversity in higher education.”

Fisher herself, who graduated from Louisiana State University in 2012 and now works in Austin as a financial analyst, told KVUE that she’s continued the case as a matter of principal.

“I would like other people to fight for my rights, so I’m fighting for everyone’s rights here.”

So what happens next? The appeals court has no deadline to issue a ruling, and there’s also a chance that the case could end up back in another court. This debate isn’t ending anytime soon.

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


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