UT admissions policy goes to Supreme Court

Olivia Griffin, Staff Reporter

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon be making a decision soon in Fisher v. The University of Texas, a case in which Abigail Noel Fisher of Sugar Land, TX, sued the University of Texas at Austin for supposedly not admitting her because she was not a minority.
The case has brought much scrutiny to and debate over the influence of race on the college admissions process.

On November 2, the Supreme Court said that it was closer to reaching a decision on the case, indicating a decision leaning closer towards more race-neutral admissions policies at colleges.
Fisher, who graduated with a Finance degree from Louisiana State University earlier this year, graduated in 2008 from Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, TX, and was in the top 12 percent of her class, was an accomplished cellist, co-president of her high school orchestra, competed in mathematics competitions, and volunteered for Habitat for Humanity and a local nursing home. Fisher was not admitted to UT Austin, but was admitted to another UT campus with the option of transferring to UT Austin after one to two years at the satellite campus. Fisher began her lawsuit initially to gain acceptance to UT Austin, however, this lawsuit has dragged on now for several years and has become a fight for equal rights for all races.

“I hope the court will decide that all future UT applicants will be allowed to compete for admission without their race or ethnicity being a factor,” Fisher said in a statement released by the Project on Fair Representation.

For Fisher, UT had been her dream school and her top choice.

“I dreamt of going to UT ever since the second grade,” Fisher said in a statement given to CNN. “My dad went there, my sister went there, and tons of friends and family went there. It was a tradition I wanted to continue.”

Under the Top 10 Percent program, Texas students that graduate at the top of their high school class are guaranteed admission to UT Austin, filling three-quarters of the slots for in-state students. For the final quarter, applicants are evaluated for admission on factors including test scores, essays, activities, socioeconomic status, cultural background, and, most controversially, race and ethnicity.

Fisher believes that the second method of admissions to UT Austin is discriminatory.

“I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination is wrong,” Fisher said. “For an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me.”

However, those who oppose Fisher’s cause claim that the admissions program is fair as it is.

“The people behind the lawsuit are aggrieved whites who are not going to be happy until there is no person of color in college,” Michael Olivas, a law professor and director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston. “The forces that led to this are fighting the Civil War all over again and they feel it’s their job to go on the battlefield and shoot the survivors.”

UT Austin’s administrators stand behind their use of race as a factor for admission to the school, claiming that it is an important factor to consider when admitting students.

“It is vital for the university to weigh a multitude of factors when making admissions decisions about the balance of students who will make up each entering class,” UT Austin President Bill Powers said in a statement. “We must have the flexibility to consider each applicant’s unique experiences and background so we can provide the best environment in which to educate and train the students who will be our nation’s future leaders.”

Additionally, former UT students believe that Fisher’s case has gotten out of hand, and that her rejection from UT Austin was fair.

“Coming from someone who worked to make the top 10 [percent], I can confidently say without shame that Fisher needs to let this go,” Parker Cremer said in his column in the Daily Reveille of Louisiana State University. “The end result is the same. She’s now working in Austin, living among UT alumni.”

In August, the Obama administration declared its support of UT’s use of race as a standard in college admissions processes.

“The armed services and numerous federal agencies have concluded that well-qualified and diverse graduates are crucial to the fulfillment of their missions,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli said.

However, Fisher argues against Cremer’s assertion that the end result of her college years are the same, despite her living in Austin now.

“The only thing I missed out on was in my post-graduation years,” Fisher said to The New York Times. “Just being in a network of UT graduates would have been a really nice thing to be in, and I probably would have gotten a better job offer had I gone to UT.”

Fisher’s lawyer, Bert W. Rein, also agrees with Fisher’s stance on the importance of her attending UT Austin.

“It is critical in Texas to be a UT graduate,” Rein said. “She can’t have that back.”

Rein also stated that an estimated one percent, or 55 students, are admitted to UT each year solely based on their race. This year’s freshman class of 7,000 students at UT Austin is 46 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian, and 6 percent black.

However, some people believe that race is not an issue in college admissions processes.

“This is not a race issue,” Cremer said. “Fisher made it a race issue.”