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Monday, July 21, 2014
Texas, Race, and College Admissions
In June of 2013, in a 7-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court punted the hot-button issue of affirmative action back to the appellate courts. Fisher v University of Texas was a 2008 case brought by Abigail Fisher, a white student who claims she was unfairly denied admission to the university on the basis of her race. The Supreme Court refused to issue a ruling banning the use of race in college admissions, instead requiring universities to use stricter standards in the consideration of race.
The case was remanded back down the chain to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans where, last week, Fisher's case was dismissed. That's the shorthand version of the ruling. Essentially, the Supreme Court said that race can be considered in college admissions, but only if there are no reasonable "race-neutral" mechanisms that would produce the benefits of diversity. Got that?
The Fifth Circuit found that UT's use of race in its admissions policies was acceptable, and not a constitutional violation for a student like Abigail Fisher. Texas' "Top Ten Percent Plan" automatically grants college admission to the top ten percent of all high school graduates. Because Texas' schools are largely segregated, this has the net effect of adding a great deal of diversity to college university bodies.
UT also uses a "holistic" review process, wherein race is one factor for consideration. However, far more minority students are admitted through the Top Ten Percent Plan.
Splitting legal hairs is what helps cases like Fisher to languish in various stages of the appellate process for years or more. Fisher's attorneys have already announced their intent to appeal once again. She has long since graduated from another university, and experts have noted that her GPA and test scores meant that admission for her in 2004 was unlikely, regardless of her race.
For now, a victory for proponents of affirmative action. Watch this space, as the long battle rages slowly on.
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