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WEDNESDAY BUZZ: Supreme Court Will Hear University of Texas Diversity in Admissions Case

February 22, 2012

Fisher v. University of Texas will be on the Supreme Court docket this fall

The U.S. Supreme Court announced yesterday it will hear a case dealing with the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions at the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Fisher v. University of Texas is on appeal from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a 2009 lower court ruling that UT did not infringe on the civil rights of two white students who were refused admission to that year’s freshman class.

At issue is whether the university’s admissions process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, because in some cases admissions officers take race and ethnicity into consideration in making their decisions. The plaintiffs argue the admissions policies of the university, as applied, “discriminate…on the basis of their race in violation of their right to equal protection of the laws.”

Both lower court opinions noted that UT’s plan closely follows the admissions process approved by the Supreme Court in 2003 in the University of Michigan admissions case, Grutter v. Bollinger.

In the Grutter case, the Supreme Court upheld the policy that an individualized, holistic review of each candidate for admissions was appropriate, even if it included race, to achieve the compelling state interest of increasing diversity in the student body. Any review that incorporates race must do so on an individualized basis, without applying a point value or adhering to any sort of quota.

“We don't want to see the Grutter decision undermined if we can help it," ACE General Counsel Ada Meloy said in an interview with The Houston Chronicle yesterday. “We hope we will be able to continue to apply the institutional mission that includes diversity as one of the features that a school values.”

ACE filed an amicus brief in March 2010 to the Fifth Circuit in support of UT.

“We do focus on socioeconomic status and other factors, and they’re helpful, but without race-conscious admissions, I don’t think we could get the same results,” Stephen Farmer, vice provost at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, told The New York Times. “I don’t think any school has ever found a way to remain as racially diverse as it already is in the absence of the practices outlined in the Grutter case.”

Multinational corporations have said that a diverse work force is important for their global competitiveness, and “graduates of our institutions need to be prepared to operate in a diverse world,” Meloy told Bloomberg News.

For more reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to take the case, see the following:

U.S. Supreme Court to Scrutinize UT Affirmative Action
The Texas Tribune (free reg. req.)

Supreme Court Takes Up Challenge to Race-Conscious Admissions
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Counting Justices
Inside Higher Ed

U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Texas Affirmative Action Case
Diverse: Issues In Higher Education

How Supreme Court Ruling on Texas Could Reduce Affirmative Action Across US
The Christian Science Monitor

OPINION: Chasing an Illusion in College Admissions
The Austin American-Statesman (free reg. req.)

OPINION: Racial Preferences Redux
The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)

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