Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: A Timeline and Resources

Background

NEW (June 23, 2016): The U.S. Supreme Court votes 4-3 to uphold the University of Texas at Austin's diversity in admissions policy. Read ACE President Molly Corbett Broad's statement on the decision here.


Fisher v. University of Texas (UT) at Austin is a lawsuit concerning UT's use of diversity in its admissions process. It has twice come to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. In its second ruling in 2016, the Supreme Court voted 4-3 to uphold the university's admissions policy.

On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court voided the lower appellate court's ruling in favor of UT and remanded the case for further consideration, via a 7–1 decision, with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting (Fisher I). The Supreme Court found that the lower court had not appropriately applied the standard of strict scrutiny articulated in Grutter, and in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), to its assessment of the UT admissions program. Fisher I took Grutter and Bakke as given, and did not directly revisit the constitutionality of using race as a factor in college admissions.

Applying the Supreme Court's 2013 decision, the Fifth Circuit once again found for UT in 2014. Fisher again appealed the Fifth Circuit's decision, and the Supreme Court again agreed to hear her appeal (Fisher II). The Supreme Court heard oral argument in Fisher II on Dec. 9, 2015, and on June 23, 2016, voted 4-3 to uphold UT's admissions policy. 

Resources

Race, Class, and College Access: Achieving Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape
This July 2015 report examines how legal challenges to race-conscious admissions are influencing contemporary admissions practices at selective colleges and universities around the country.

Bridging the Research to Practice Gap: Achieving Mission-Driven Diversity and Inclusion Goals (March 2016)
The College Board's Access & Diversity Collaborative 

Webinar on Possible Outcomes and Responses to Fisher II (March 2, 2016)
This webinar, entitled “Preparing for Fisher II on Your Campus: An Overview of Key Issues and Action Steps to Consider,” provides recommendations to help institutions prepare for the U.S. Supreme Court’s second decision in the Fisher case. The link above to the archived webinar requires email registration. (Hosted by ACE, the College Board’s Access & Diversity Collaborative and EducationCounsel.)

Preparing for Fisher II (February 2016)
The College Board's Access & Diversity Collaborative

Legal Watch: Campus Diversity in the Age of Fisher II: Broadening the Conversation
The Presidency (Winter 2016)

Diversifying Diversity
The Presidency (Winter 2016)

Understanding Fisher v. the University of Texas (July 2013)
The College Board's Access & Diversity Collaborative

Preparing for the Fisher Decision: Are You Ready? (May 2013)
The College Board's Access & Diversity Collaborative

SCOTUSBlog on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Higher Education Community: Diversity on College Campuses Remains Essential National Priority
In the wake of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the higher education community stands committed to furthering the goals of equal opportunity and diversity on college campuses.

ACE Board of Directors Resolution on Diversity
Resolution approved by the ACE Board of Directors on June 19, 2012, to preserve, support and enhance diversity on college and university campuses.

Select Op-Eds & Editorials

High and Long-Term Stakes
Inside Higher Ed (Dec. 9, 2015)
What may be hanging in the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Fisher is the ability of colleges to ensure a racially diverse student body and, just as critically, to build a diverse faculty, argue ACE’s Peter McDonough and Lorelle L. Espinosa.

The Legal Future of Affirmative Action (Rod Smolla, president of Furman University)
Inside Higher Ed (June 27, 2013)

A Long, Slow Drift From Racial Justice (Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University)
The New York Times (June 24, 2013)

Affirmative Action Ruling a Victory for Future (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund)
USA Today (June 24, 2013)

Judicial Minimalism Triumphs in Affirmative Action Case (Cass R. Sunstein, professor at Harvard Law School)
Bloomberg (June 24, 2013)

Court Should Uphold Race Factor In College Admissions (Leo I. Higdon Jr., president of Connecticut College)
The Hartford Courant (June 7, 2013)

Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger​ (2003)
Race and Crisis at a Crossroads
Race and Crisis at a Crossroads
​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Join ACE and American University for a virtual, interactive learning experience focused on taking action on the intersecting issues of race and crisis management in higher education.
Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on Racial Violence and Injustice
Statement by ACE President Ted Mitchell on Racial Violence and Injustice
George Floyd’s murder was horrific and cannot be tolerated or explained away any more than the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless others can be. Neither can the underlying and systemic racism.
ACE, 40 Associations Support Harvard’s Diversity in Admissions Policy in Appeals Court Brief
ACE, 40 Associations Support Harvard’s Diversity in Admissions Policy in Appeals Court Brief
ACE and 40 other associations submitted an amicus brief yesterday in support of Harvard’s “holistic” admissions process and its consideration of race and ethnicity when reviewing applications for undergraduate admission.
Public Policy Pop-Up: May Edition
Public Policy Pop-Up: May Edition
ACE’s Terry Hartle and Jon Fansmith update you on higher education’s response to COVID-19 and look ahead to the fall. This edition is sponsored by Finn Partners. Presented on ACE Engage—Create your account.
Virtual ACE Summit to Tackle Intersection of Race and Crisis Management This June
Virtual ACE Summit to Tackle Intersection of Race and Crisis Management This June
Register now for “Race and Crisis at a Crossroads—A Virtual Summit hosted by ACE and American University” June 22 from 1-3:30 p.m. EDT.
Enrollment Strategies and Tactics for the Global Pandemic
Enrollment Strategies and Tactics for the Global Pandemic
EAB explores data-driven tactical and strategic actions enrollment leaders should consider, including possible future outcomes and the trailing impact on student behavior. Sponsored by EAB. Presented on ACE Engage—Create your account.
Student-Informed Principles and Strategies to Support Enrollment in Light of COVID
Student-Informed Principles and Strategies to Support Enrollment in Light of COVID
The College Board shares findings from a recent large national student surve, and enrollment leaders share best practices for communicating with prospective students. Sponsored by the College Board. Presented on ACE Engage—Create your account.
Race and Equity Group
Race and Equity Group
A group for higher education professionals dedicated to advancing issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion for students, faculty, and staff. Only on ACE Engage—Create an account!
Colleges, High Schools Prepare To Celebrate College Signing Day Online
Colleges, High Schools Prepare To Celebrate College Signing Day Online
Although campuses across the country remain closed due to the coronavirus, high schools, higher education institutions, and communities around the country are moving forward with plans to observe College Signing Day on May 1.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and COVID-19: Implications and Strategies
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and COVID-19: Implications and Strategies
Three expert panelists discuss COVID-19's implications for DEI, how to prioritize DEI during the shift to online learning, and strategies for institutions and campus communities implementing crisis plans. Presented on ACE Engage—Create your account.
Public Policy
Public Policy
This group is designed for those focused on federal higher education policymaking, with opportunities to discuss pressing policy issues. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account!
Enrollment Management
Enrollment Management
This group is designed for leaders who define and lead strategic student outreach, enrollment, retention, and completion. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account!
Military and Higher Education Group
Military and Higher Education Group
This group is designed for higher education professionals to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and benefits of military-affiliated learners in Higher Education. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account!
ACE Webinars on Finances, Diversity and Equity Efforts in Response to Coronavirus
ACE Webinars on Finances, Diversity and Equity Efforts in Response to Coronavirus
ACE continues to provide timely webinars and resources for the higher education community on COVID-19 through the ACE Engage® online learning platform.
Harvard Admissions Case: Unpacking the Components
Harvard Admissions Case: Unpacking the Components
ACE's President Ted Mitchell, General Counsel Peter McDonough, and VP of Research Lorelle Espinosa discuss the Harvard admissions case and its broader implications for higher education. Only on ACE Engage—Create an account today!
Reimagining Gateway Courses
Reimagining Gateway Courses
Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng talks with ACE about gateway course redesign and building a culture of student success. Only an ACE Engage. Create an account!
Higher Education's Obligation in Balancing Tensions
Higher Education's Obligation in Balancing Tensions
Former and current presidents explore free speech and campus climate. While higher education must foster diverse, inclusive communities and the exchange of ideas, it must also consider evolving student perspectives. Only on ACE Engage—Create your account
Speaking and Acting with Integrity in Times of Crisis
Speaking and Acting with Integrity in Times of Crisis
This item offers key actions that can guide leadership’s response during and after a crisis. Only on Engage. Create your account!
Improving Outcomes for Male Students of Color
Improving Outcomes for Male Students of Color
This “blueprint for action” highlights institutional policies and programs found to support male students of color across member institutions of the Texas Education Consortium for Male Students of Color. Only on Engage. Create your account!
Confronting Historical Injustices of Slavery
Confronting Historical Injustices of Slavery
This document and accompanying video clips offer recommendations from John J. DeGioia and Ruth J. Simmons on confronting the historical injustices of slavery on today's college campuses. Only on Engage. Create your account!
Audiocast: Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
Audiocast: Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education
Lorelle Espinosa, ACE’s Vice President for Research, shares the back story on how the Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education project came about and how it has flourished since launching in February 2019. Only on ACE Engage. Create your account!
Affirmative Action in Higher Education After Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger​
Affirmative Action in Higher Education After Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger​
A 2003 letter from then-ACE President David Ward on affirmative action in higher education after Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger​
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: University of Michigan Admissions Cases
Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: University of Michigan Admissions Cases
Amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan in the 2003 cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.
Statement of Higher Education Associations on Affirmative Action Cases
Statement of Higher Education Associations on Affirmative Action Cases
The higher education community welcomes the United States Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, cases addressing race-conscious admissions at the University of Michigan.
 
 

 Case Timeline

June 2016: U.S. Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Fisher v. UT-Austin