U.S. Supreme Court to hear case on UT admission policies

Liz Farmer

The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case involving the University’s use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

The case, Fisher v. Texas, was filed against UT when two white students were denied admission to the University in 2008. It claims that the University’s admissions policies, which take race into consideration, violated the plaintiff’s right to equal protection of the laws under the 14th Amendment. The Supreme Court will hear the case in its next term, which begins in October. It could potentially reverse the use of race as a factor in admissions at public higher education institutions.

UT won the lawsuit in an Austin federal district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit judges denied an appeal for rehearing of the case in a 9-7 vote.

The Supreme Court will look at Grutter v. Bollinger, a decision the Court made in 2003 which established that race can be used as a determinant in college admissions decisions.

Vice president of legal affairs Patricia Ohlendorf said the University will work with UT System attorneys, the Office of the Solicitor General and outside counsel. Ohlendorf said this group will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision and Grutter v. Bollinger.

Fifth Circuit Judge Emilio Garza’s ruled in favor of UT because of the precedent from Grutter v. Bollinger, but he does not believe race should be a factor in admissions decisions. In Garza’s written opinion, he said “the Supreme Court has chosen this erroneous path, and only the Court can rectify the error.”

A Texas law allows UT-Austin to only accept 75 percent of incoming freshmen under the top 10 percent rule, said Augustine Garza, deputy director of the Office of Admissions, when he spoke to The Daily Texan in September. The freshman class that entered in fall 2011 was the first class to be selected under this admissions policy.

“There are some excellent students out there who are not in the top 10 percent,” Garza said.

He said race is one of many factors considered in admissions for students who fall outside of the projected automatic admittance for their class.

Admissions takes academic achievement, personal achievement and special circumstances into consideration, according to the University’s website. Race and ethnicity is one of seven other factors that fall under the special circumstances portion.

President William Powers Jr. said the University’s admissions process is holistic and it follows previous statements by the U.S. Supreme Court on how an admissions process meets Constitutional requirements.

“We will continue to make those points as we proceed with this litigation so we can best serve the people of Texas,” Powers said.

Printed on Wednessday February 22, 2012 as: Supreme Court to reiew Fisher