Abigail Fisher, a white woman in her 20s, is suing the University of Texas at Austin for its race-conscious admissions policy. Fisher claims her application was unfairly rejected, citing minority peers were accepted despite having lower test scores.
In 2014, UNC and Harvard University faced a similar suit. The University’s affirmative action policy came under fire, criticized for making race the defining feature of student’s application.
Approximately 25 percent of UT-Austin’s yearly admissions are decided by what the University president calls a “holistic admissions process,” which incorporates race and ethnicity. The other 75 percent are filled using what’s known as the “top 10 percent rule,” a Texas law that guarantees admission to the University of Texas system for students in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
“Our policy allows us to consider applicants’ academic performance, as well as other factors including extracurricular accomplishments, socio-economic backgrounds, hardships overcome, special talents and, in a limited manner consistent with Supreme Court precedent, race and ethnicity,” said President Gregory Fenves in an email to faculty and students in December.
“It’s vital that our students have the opportunity to work with others from different backgrounds and experiences — and the freedom to learn from the myriad perspectives, viewpoints and ideas that should flourish on campus,” he said.
This is the second time Fisher’s case has been tried by the Supreme Court, the first being in 2013. The Court did not rule on the policy then but handed the case down to a lower court, which upheld the policy in 2014.
The way the Court rules on UT-Austin’s admission policy could impact race conscious admissions across the nation, but it need not put an end to affirmative action in universities altogether, said Ted Shaw, director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights. Shaw said given the Court’s conservative makeup, the plan might be struck down.
He specifically referenced comments made by conservative-leaning Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments on Dec. 9.