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Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

December 30, 1899

A timeline and resources

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 United States Supreme Court on appeal.

Abigail Fisher brought suit in 2008 after she was denied admission by UT-Austin. She asked that the Supreme Court declare the university's race-conscious admissions process inconsistent with Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), which established that race had an appropriate but limited role in higher education admissions policies. This followed the U.S. District Court upholding the legality of UT's admission policy in a 2009 summary judgment and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit also ruling in the university's favor.

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. 


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)

Amicus Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger​

Affirmative Action in Higher Education After Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger​

Statement of Higher Education Presidential Associations on Affirmative Action Cases Before the United States Supreme Court​​

Other ACE News


 Case Timeline

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

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