As you know, increasing inclusion and diversity in higher education is an historic and ongoing priority for ACE. I write today with a breaking development in our efforts.
This afternoon, ACE is submitting an amicus brief on behalf of numerous higher education organizations to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Our brief asserts two critical points: First, the educational benefits that come from a diverse student body are a compelling governmental interest, and second, institutions must be allowed to make autonomous decisions when determining the composition of their student bodies.
The case involves a challenge to the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions to University of Texas at Austin (UT). It is on appeal from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, 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 the university. At issue is whether UT's admissions process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.
Both lower court opinions noted that UT's plan closely follows the holistic review admissions process approved by the Supreme Court in 2003 in the University of Michigan affirmative action case, Grutter v. Bollinger. For an overview of this and the related Gratz v. Bollinger case, as well as other resources, visit ACE's website.
In the Michigan affirmative action cases, ACE sponsored an amicus brief to the Supreme Court submitted on behalf of the higher education community. As we assert in today's brief, the compelling interest of diversity has only intensified as the students we serve live and work in a world that requires them to meet new and often unfamiliar challenges on a daily basis.
After the Supreme Court announced in February its intention to hear the Fisher case, ACE's Board of Directors unanimously approved at its June meeting a resolution to preserve, support and enhance diversity on college and university campuses. Today's brief is another important step in our efforts to do so.
Alongside our efforts are briefs by the University of Texas, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the College Board, and the Association of American Law Schools, along with numerous other amici. From the federal government, a group of U.S. senators and the United States also submitted briefs.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for October 10, and we expect a decision in spring 2013.
Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE