[Guest post by DRJ]
Few universities have been involved in more litigation regarding race-based admissions than the University of Texas, especially after Monday.
The first notable case was in the 1950 Sweatt v Painter case in which the NAACP and Herman Marion Sweatt, an African-American, went to the U.S. Supreme Court to compel UT’s Law School and other graduate programs to integrate.
Subsequently, in the Hopwood case, UT unsuccessfully appealed a Fifth Circuit ruling “that any consideration of race, even as one factor among many, is unconstitutional. As a result of the court’s ruling, all affirmative action programs involving race and ethnicity in admission ended at public universities in Texas in June 1996.” Texas adopted the top-10% law soon thereafter.
After the 2002 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v Bollinger and Gratz v Bollinger, UT altered its admissions policies to consider race and ethnicity as factors in discretionary (non-top-10%) admissions. This year, 81% of admissions at UT-Austin were made pursuant to the top-10% law and the remaining 19% were discretionary admissions in which race and ethnicity were factors.
Monday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court that challenges UT-Austin’s race-based admissions policies:
“A group that fights racial preferences in schools filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the University of Texas at Austin, claiming its undergraduate admissions policies violate the Constitution and federal law.
The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Fair Representation. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, is from Richmond, a Houston suburb. She is a white student who finished in the top 12 percent of her high school class but was rejected for admission to UT-Austin.”
The lawsuit claims that UT-Austin has not complied with the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in Grutter and Gratz:
“The lawsuit contends that UT has run afoul of a 2003 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving the University of Michigan that said race and ethnicity could be considered under certain circumstances. Fisher’s suit argues that affirmative action is allowed only after race-neutral approaches are found inadequate.
Patti Ohlendorf, UT’s vice president for legal affairs, said the school’s admissions policies comply with Supreme Court precedent and applicable laws.”
UT-Austin President Bill Powers supports discretionary admissions to increase minority numbers and has criticized the top-10% law because it limits discretionary admissions and, in his view, penalizes well-rounded and minority students. He advocates a cap on top-10% admissions at UT-Austin at 50% so that there will be more discretionary admissions to build “a diverse and well-rounded student body.”
College admissions is a contentious issue in Texas for many reasons but I think one reason is rising college tuition costs. State colleges like UT-Austin provide a good education at less cost than private schools, and the competition has intensified as costs increase.
Whatever the outcome, plaintiff will likely have completed college and perhaps even graduate school before this case is decided.