UT students of color have filed testimonies with a civil rights association to defend the University’s affirmative action policy. The students are defending the policy against a national organization which claims the use of race in admissions harms white and Asian applicants.
Students for Fair Admissions, a national organization of college students that fights against affirmative action, lost United States Supreme Court cases against UT in 2016 and a 2019 district case. The organization filed a lawsuit in the Travis County District Court last May claiming the University’s admission process violates the Texas Constitution and the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which prohibits race-based discrimination in state-owned programs and schools. The University’s affirmative action policies allow race to be considered in the admissions process.
Several UT students, with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, filed an intervention Dec. 13, 2019, with testimony from to show the court that students have a vested stake in the case. The case is waiting to be heard in court. Committee lawyer Genevieve Bonadies Torres said the committee intervened because there is still a risk for the court to rule against the affirmative action practices at UT.
“It is essential to develop the strongest record possible,” Torres said. “These programs are key to ensuring talented students of all backgrounds can continue to access the flagship institution. Our student testimony is the most critical piece because they are the ones who are impacted the most.”
“SFFA and its members have suffered and will continue to suffer irreparable harm due to the acts and omissions of Defendants in violating Texas constitutional and statutory law,” the petition said. “The use of race as a factor in the admissions process at UT Austin causes certain applicants to be treated less favorably than other applicants based on their race.”
Students for Fair Admissions said white and Asian students are at a disadvantage in the admissions system. The Lawyers’ Committee argues there is no advantage and the policies are correcting existing inequalities.
Angela Kang, president of spirit group Texas Orange Jackets and an Asian American, submitted testimony on behalf of her and the Orange Jackets saying that attending classes with students of different identities changes the discussion of certain topics.
“People often discuss how their families haven’t had access to health care or we talk about certain racialized, unethical experiments in the past,” biology senior Kang said. “I have a more informed view of what ethics looks like in biology with the voice of people who have been traditionally impacted by these decisions.”
English junior Adaylin Alvarez also provided testimony. Her mother immigrated to Texas before she was born, and she said her mother struggled financially and with her citizenship status. Alvarez was automatically admitted into UT, but she said she faced inequalities in her educational opportunities, such as summer camps and tutoring, because of her background.
“My high school didn’t have funds for certain classes and extracurriculars,” Alvarez said. “Based on the setbacks that I had, (UT) needs to grade people like me at that level and not at the same level as everyone else who had more opportunities growing up. The fact that we still got good grades while struggling with all these other things is worth a lot.”
Editor's Note: This story was updated to correct the dates of the Student for Fair Admissions court cases.