Supreme Court says UT can use race in admissions

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Supreme Court has upheld the affirmative action case in a 4-3 vote that allows the University of Texas to use race and ethnicity as a factor in applications.

The suit was brought by Abigail Fisher, who sued the university in 2013 for taking race into consideration during college admissions. Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her high school, but argued that race was a major factor in her not receiving admission to UT Austin in 2008. The University stated that including race on applications is not about minority student numbers, but allows for “educational benefits that flow from student body diversity.”

Abigail Fisher, who challenged the use of race in college admissions, joined by lawyer Edward Blum, right, speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Abigail Fisher, who challenged the use of race in college admissions, joined by lawyer Edward Blum, right, speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Justices said that “educational benefits” do not serve as enough of a reason to permit race as a factor in the application process. The University countered that their goal is also to end stereotypes by promoting “cross-racial understanding” and preparing students for a “diverse workforce and society.” In the end the court agreed with the University’s goals.

The Court’s opinion says UT Austin aims to teach diversity, which uses “valuable data” during the admissions process. Justices decided the university “must continue” to use race as a factor to achieve fairness while admitting new students. They concluded saying it is UT’s obligation to continue to reflect on admissions policies.

Opinion of the Court:

“The University of Texas at Austin has a special opportunity to learn and to teach. The University now has at its disposal valuable data about the manner in which different approaches to admissions may foster diversity or instead dilute it.”

“We believe we have used race in the appropriate way and this decision affirms that reality,” said  University of Texas Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement, Gregory Vincent. “We believe that all students benefit from a diverse learning environment.”

Even though UT President Greg Fenves is currently in Asia, he did issue a statement stating he is happy with the court’s decision.

“I am thrilled and gratified by today’s ruling that recognizes the constitutionality of the university’s admissions policy. The court has affirmed UT’s efforts to develop a diverse student body that brings with it educational benefits for all students. Our pursuit of excellence is grounded in the university’s public mission to provide the highest quality education for every student. Diversity is essential to carry out that mission. The educational benefits of diversity for all students enhance The University of Texas at Austin, the higher education community, and the nation,” said Fenves.

Numeric evidence cited by the school showed their decades-long struggle to raise minority student numbers. Just 14 years ago, half of undergraduate classes had zero African-American students enrolled. In 1996, 10 percent of classes did not have one Hispanic student; that number raised to 12 percent in 2002.

The case was also regarding the Top Ten Percent Law that allows universities to automatically allow students who graduate in the top 10 percent admission. The Top Ten Percent Law can not be amended by Universities, according to the Supreme Court, because it is mandated by the Texas Legislature.

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