The United States, through the Department of Justice, joined more than 50 organizations and public officials Monday in publically supporting UT in the upcoming Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court case. Brought forth by rejected 2008 UT applicant Abigail Fisher, the case alleges the University’s consideration of race in its admission process violates the fourteenth amendment.
In a statement of support filed with the Supreme Court, legal representatives of the Obama administration stated that federal agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Education, consider diverse university graduates crucial to their mission. The U.S. also stated UT’s race-conscious policy to promote diversity was constitutional in supplement with Texas’ Top Ten Percent Plan, a rule that grants automatic public university admission to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
This is the second brief the U.S. Department of Justice has filed in support of UT. It filed the first brief in 2010 when the case went before the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of UT.
“The University legitimately concluded in these circumstances [when evaluating applicants not admitted through the Top Ten Percent Plan] that the holistic evaluation of each individual student would be incomplete and insufficient without consideration of applicant’s race along with other factors,” the brief states.
The U.S. also stated that since race is one of many factors considered in the admission process, there was no ground for Fisher’s claim UT was trying to fill racial quotas. UT also considers leadership, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, work experience, community service and special circumstances such as socioeconomic status and the primary language spoken at home.
Race and ethnicity are considered special circumstances that help admission counselors obtain a full understanding of the student.
As of 7 p.m. Monday, other UT supporters included the University at North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 17 U.S. senators, 38 Texas senators and representatives Houston Community College System. There are 17 supporters for Fisher, which include the Cato Institute, a public policy research organization; the American Center for Law and Justice, which fights for religious and constitutional freedoms and the California Association of Scholars.
In a statement, UT President William Powers Jr. said the University was delighted by the show of support. He said the support demonstrated the importance of the issue and will guide the U.S. in the future.
“We need to have pathways for our students into leadership positions so we can have a robust economy, a robust culture and a robust democracy,” Powers said. “These briefs also speak to the absence of the full educational benefits of diversity at UT in 2004 when we introduced our race-conscious, holistic review admissions policy."
Damon Hewitt, director of educational practice at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, was part of the team that filed a brief supporting UT. The NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund is a non-profit legal organization advocating for racial justice. In the brief, which also expresses support from UT’s Black Student Alliance, the organization states meaningful representation of African-American students is essential to receive the full educational benefits of diversity.
“UT has a very robust race neutral component in the Top Ten Percent Plan,” Hewitt said. “On the holistic component, there is nothing odd about a university opening up a student’s application and learning everything about the student in order to make a decision.”
The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments in Fisher v. UT Oct. 10.