Students for Fair Admissions sues UT-Austin for second time for use of race in admissions

Areeba Amer

Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit membership group that believes using race in college admissions is “unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional,” filed a lawsuit against UT on Wednesday in federal court. The lawsuit claims two white members were denied admission based on their race.

“Applicants, who are white, were denied the opportunity to compete for admission to UT-Austin on equal footing with other applicants on the basis of race or ethnicity because of UT-Austin’s discriminatory admissions policies,” the organization’s lawsuit said. 

The lawsuit alleges UT’s inclusion of race in its admissions process violates the Fourteenth Amendment, Texas law and federal civil rights law. The lawsuit names multiple officials from UT as defendants, including UT Interim President Jay Hartzell and three officials of the UT System. 

The group filed a similar case against UT in 2018, which was dismissed.

UT spokesperson J.B. Bird said the University is reviewing the new lawsuit in a statement.

"We agreed with the judge's decision to dismiss (Students for Fair Admissions)’s previous lawsuit, and we remain confident in the lawfulness and constitutionality of UT Austin’s holistic admissions policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2016,” Bird said in a statement. 

An external investigation commissioned by the UT System in 2015 found that former UT President William Powers placed “holds” on about 150 to 300 in-state applicants from 2009 to 2014. If a student received a “hold,” the admissions office could not deny the student without first speaking to Powers, according to the investigation.

According to the investigation, these holds were based on requests from Texas legislators, members of the Board of Regents and requests from the UT System Chancellor’s office. 

“By all indications (from this investigation), then, UT-Austin uses its ‘diversity’ rationale primarily as pretext to justify the admission of underqualified, well-connected applicants,” the lawsuit said in regards to the report. 

The lawsuit said the applicants are currently enrolled at another Texas university and “are ready and able to apply to transfer to UT-Austin when it stops discriminating against applicants on the basis of race and ethnicity.”

In 2008, Abigail Fisher, a white student who was denied admission to UT-Austin, sued UT in federal court and claimed UT’s consideration of race in the admissions process as unconstitutional. Fisher also claimed she was denied on the basis of race, and the Students for Fair Admissions leader was involved in her lawsuit. 

In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of UT, affirming UT’s inclusion of race and ethnicity in its admissions process. 

“The Supreme Court did not give the University of Texas a blank check to use race-based preferences in perpetuity, and the university has failed its obligation to reexamine its policies,” said Edward Blum, president of the organization, in a statement.