Court Sides 2-1 With UT in Fisher Case


In a 2-1 decision Tuesday, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court upheld an earlier ruling that UT did not violate the 14th Amendment by refusing admission to Abigail Fisher.

The Fisher case, which challenges universities’ use of race in admissions, has been wending its way through the courts for the last six years. Fisher, who is white, sued the university after she was denied admission in 2008; she graduated from Louisiana State University in 2012 and now works as a financial analyst in Austin. Last June, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, which left staff at universities around the country wondering how their admissions policies could soon change. Today’s ruling means that they won’t have to change—at least for the moment.

“We are persuaded that holistic review is a necessary complement to the Top Ten Percent Plan,” wrote Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham in the majority opinion, “enabling it to operate without reducing itself to a cover for a quota system; that in doing so, its limited use of race is narrowly tailored to this role—as small a part as possible for the plan to succeed.”

Higginbotham added, “This interest [of achieving diversity] is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts — the classic assertion of the humanities.”

Circuit judge Emilio Garza wrote the dissenting opinion, in which he argued that UT’s stated goal of achieving a “critical mass” of diversity within its student body is too vague.

“Because the University has not defined its diversity goal in any meaningful way—instead, reflexively reciting the term ‘critical mass’—it is altogether impossible to determine whether its use of racial classifications is narrowly tailored,” Garza wrote.

In a statement, UT President Bill Powers said he was pleased with the decision.

“We are very pleased with the Court’s ruling recognizing the constitutionality of the University’s admissions policy under the Supreme Court’s recent guidance,” Powers said. “We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students.”

Less than an hour after the ruling was released, Fisher and her legal team had already vowed to appeal. “It is disappointing that the judges hearing my case are not following the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer. I remain committed to continuing this lawsuit even if it means we appeal to the Supreme Court once again,” Fisher said in a statement.

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

U.S. 5th Circuit Court Court Ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas Case by The Texas Exes


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