Supreme Court should rehear Abigail Fisher’s case, put the issue to rest

Jazmyn Griffin

Editor's note: This is part of a Point/Counterpoint series regarding Fisher v. University of Texas. To read the opposing viewpoint, click here. 

Fisher v. University of Texas, a 2013 case that began when Abigail Fisher, a rejected white applicant, sued the University in 2008 for violating the 14th Amendment, questions the validity of using race as a factor in school admissions. Unfortunately for Fisher, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently declined to rehear her case after ruling in July, for a second time, that UT’s use of race in its admissions policy is constitutional, leaving her to appeal, again, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Whether the public agrees with Fisher’s stance in the case is irrelevant; she has the right to see the highest U.S. court for a second time.

While Fisher claims she was the victim of discrimination in the holistic review process applied to UT applicants not admitted to the University through the Top Ten Percent Rule, her application just wasn’t enough to secure a spot with the 42 white students who were admitted despite their class rank. The University claimed it would not have accepted her even if she were any other race. Hailing from a Longhorn family and growing up with the aspiration to follow in their footsteps, I understand her sense of injustice. Critics said the courts that ruled in favor of the University were not strict enough in their examination, affirming the University’s case without considering Fisher’s fairly. Both Fisher and Edward Blum, who funds the case through his legal defense fund, simply want a hearing by an en banc court (meaning the full 15-judge panel would hear the case) that would examine the case without bias, rather than the skeleton courts they’d appealed to before in which only three judges heard the case.

This case is reminiscent of the famous 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger case in which a white student applied to University of Michigan Law School and was denied under similar circumstances and the 1978 University of California v. Bakke case in which a white student experienced something similar in his application to medical school. Fisher is the Grutter/Bakke of our generation but isn’t getting the same opportunity for retrial in high courts as they did. All three cases question affirmative action policies as a violation of Equal Protection Clause and Civil Rights Act of 1964. All three include instances in which a white student wasn’t accepted over minority students. However, in this day and age, affirmative action is being called into question where it was arguably more necessary in the past. So, as the two before it, Fisher’s case deserves an end at the Supreme Court.

Most of all, the court should rehear her case in order to put it to rest for good. Six years and several appeals later, Fisher and her family don’t seem to be letting up at all. Although Fisher has already earned a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and currently works as a financial analyst in Austin, her rejection from UT isn’t something she’s taking lightly, even to this day. Having the highest of courts to tell her she’s wrong would not only end this particular debate, but emphasize to students of every race the importance of working hard to get accepted to your school of choice.

Fisher and her supporters seem to be confused about the fact that universities can’t let everyone in. Class rank, test scores, essay quality, resume and recommendations all go into the review process and everyone, regardless of race, must exceed certain requirements in order to earn admission to the school. If the Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case, and even the more conservative members ruled in favor of upholding diversity over mediocre academic achievements, perhaps the young people of the nation would be motivated to work harder in their studies. It would reinforce the idea to Americans that belonging to a minority race is typically less helpful and more hindering to academic and career success.

Racial basis for admission is being challenged by many in modern society, but the strict scrutiny of the Supreme Court deciding on the Fisher case could put a legal end to the question once and for all.

Griffin is a journalism freshman from Houston. Follow her on Twitter @JazmynAlynn.