University files respondent brief in Fisher case

Matthew Adams

UT filed its brief Monday to the Supreme Court in response to the brief filed by Abigail Fisher on Sept. 3.

The Fisher brief argues for this case to be heard again, claiming that UT has violated its standard of race in admissions. Fisher’s brief demands that the University “demonstrate with clarity that its purpose or interest is both constitutionally permissible and substantial, and that its use of the classification is necessary … to the accomplishment of its purpose.”

In response to the Fisher brief, UT claims Fisher is “doubly wrong” about her claims that the University cannot rely on the “educational benefits of diversity” and that UT is trying to search for more minorities from affluent backgrounds.

“Like [the] petitioners attack on UT’s interest, these arguments are ultimately aimed at dismantling, rather than applying the Court’s existing precedent, and replacing it with a regime in which race can essentially never be considered even in holistic review, no matter how individualized or modest,” the UT brief said. 

In a campus-wide email, University president Gregory Fenves said the University argues in the brief that its admissions process is constitutional and has been upheld in the court of law. 

“During the past six years, multiple courts have ruled in our favor and upheld the use of race and ethnicity as one factor in admissions,” Fenves said in the email. “In 2013, the Supreme Court remanded the case for further consideration. In 2014, the Fifth Circuit upheld the policy again. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case for a second time.”

In 2008, Abigail Fisher — a white student — was denied admission into UT. Fisher did not rank in the top 10 percent of her high school, was not automatically admitted and was not accepted during the holistic review process.

The percent rule, which the University has reduced to top seven or top eight percent through the years, is a state law that limits the number of automatically accepted in-state students through the rule to 75 percent of the incoming class, with the remaining percent undergoing holistic review.

After the Supreme Court heard the case in 2012, a 7-1 vote sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the court ruled in favor of UT. On June 29, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case a second time, and in early October announced the hearing will take place on Dec. 9.

While Fisher argues that race played a part in her denial into UT, the University said in its brief that few minority students could be admitted under the holistic review.

“Because the great majority of the entering class is filled with Top 10% admits, the holistic admissions process is exceptionally competitive,” the UT brief said. “That was particularly true in [Fisher’s] admissions year, 2008, when the 21,000 applicants not admitted under the Top 10% law competed for 4,000 spots. The competition is particularly fierce for minority applicants, who do not fare as well as non-minority applicants in the holistic review process.”