WASHINGTON — In a potentially momentous case, the Supreme Court will once again confront the issue of race in university admissions in an appeal brought by a white student denied a spot at the flagship campus of the University of Texas.
The court said Tuesday it will return to the issue of affirmative action in higher education for the first time since its 2003 decision endorsing the use of race as a factor in freshmen admissions. This time around, a more conservative court is being asked to jettison that ruling and outlaw affirmative action in the university setting.
A broad ruling in favor of the student, Abigail Fisher, could threaten affirmative action programs at many of the nation’s public and private universities, said Vanderbilt University law professor Brian Fitzpatrick.
The high court agreed to hear an appeal by Fisher, who was a high school senior when she applied but was rejected for admission in 2008 to the University of Texas at Austin.
Fisher filed a lawsuit with another woman who was also denied admission. They contended the university’s race-conscious policy violated their civil and constitutional rights. By then, the two had enrolled elsewhere.
Here is basic premise behind Fisher’s lawsuit.
Texas had dropped affirmative action policies after a 1996 appeals court ruling. But following the high court ruling in 2003, the university resumed considering race starting with its 2005 entering class.
Texas said its updated policy does not use quotas, which the high court has previously rejected. Instead, it said it takes a Supreme Court-endorsed holistic approach to enrollment, with an eye toward increasing the diversity of the student body.
Before adding race back into the mix, Texas’ student body was 21 percent African-American and Hispanic, according to court papers.
By 2007, the year before Fisher filed her lawsuit, African-Americans and Hispanics accounted for more than a quarter of the entering freshman class.
Pacific Legal Foundation is a conservative (see, “Republican” or “white folks”) group that actually wrote a letter to convince the Supreme Court to take this case on behalf of slighted Caucasians across the nation.
“Using race in admissions decisions, to achieve diversity, amounts to stereotyping people by their race,” PLF attorney Joshua P. Thompson said in a statement. “In the real world, shared skin color does not automatically translate into shared backgrounds or beliefs. Racial diversity in a student body does not guarantee a diversity of experience and perspectives. It is unrealistic and wrong to try to pigeon-hole people by their race.”
How do you feel about Abigail Fisher and her charge of discrimination?
Image via UTexasBlog