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UT at Austin's Consideration of Race in Admissions Ruled Legal by Appeals Court

July 16, 2014

Graduate in between columns


​A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) use of race as one of many factors in admissions decisions meets the standards set last year by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 2-1 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said that “to deny U.T. Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience” and fly in the face of previous Supreme Court rulings.

This latest ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin doesn’t mean the case is over; opponents of the consideration of race in admissions have vowed to appeal and try to take the case back to the Supreme Court.

The high court ruled last year on the UT case, saying that diversity on college campuses offers unique educational benefits to students and is a compelling government interest but also applying strict standards under which race and ethnicity could be considered. (To see ACE President Molly Corbett Broad’s statement on the Supreme Court ruling, click here.)

The justices remanded the case back to the Fifth Circuit, ordering those judges to consider whether UT’s admissions policies considered race and ethnicity as part of a holistic admissions review narrowly tailored to achieve the educational benefits of diversity.

The appeals court’s majority opinion carefully reviewed UT’s race neutral efforts and concluded that “universities may use race as a part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity.”

ACE filed a brief in the Fifth Circuit case on behalf of 41 other higher education associations.

Ada Meloy, ACE’s general counsel, told Inside Higher Ed that she believes the appeals court decision follows the legal analysis that has allowed colleges to consider race in admissions.

"The Supreme Court’s earlier opinion did not close that door, and we hope it will remain open to allow consideration of race and ethnicity when properly carried out in support of an institution’s mission," she said.

Meloy added in The Chronicle of Higher Education that "institutions need to review this (appeals court ruling) carefully and think about how well they are documenting their efforts, so that they can stand up to any similar challenge."

For more, see these stories:

Appeals Panel Upholds Race in Admissions for University
The New York Times (July 15, 2014)

Appeals Court: Texas Can Use Race in Admissions
The Associated Press (July 15, 2014)


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