Via the Houston Chronicle, it seems a graduating Senior from a high school in Richmond, TX, is suing UT-Austin. Her suit alleges that she, as a white person, was denied admission to UT due to race-based admission policies.
The complaint, filed yesterday in Austin (.pdf here), states that plaintiff Abigail Fisher is graduating in the top ~12% of her class. She therefore falls outside of the top 10% admissions policy (prior post on that here). Instead, her suit challenges the admissions criteria for students who fall outside the 10% plan.
The top 10 percent law was adopted after a 1996 court ruling stopped Texas colleges and universities from considering race and ethnicity in deciding admissions; UT-Austin’s minority enrollment is higher now than at any time since the law passed.
A 2003 Supreme Court ruling said colleges and universities may consider race and ethnicity in order to create a diverse student population only if race-neutral methods haven’t worked.
Blum argues that the top 10 percent law has worked, making it illegal to use race-conscious considerations for students who do not graduate within the top 10 percent of their class.
The basis for the suit rests on Grutter v. Bollinger, in which a white law school applicant sued the University of Michigan, which at the time had racial preferences in place as part of its admissions process. In 2003, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the university, saying in part that racial criteria “to further a compelling governmental interest does not violate the Equal Protection Clause so long as it is narrowly tailored to further that interest”. (from Cornell SC Collection)
Effective 2005, as a result of Grutter, UT Austin added race to the criteria it considers for non-10% student applications.
(It’s worth noting here that Michigan passed Proposal 2 in reaction to Grutter, banning any type of preference on the bases of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.)
So — In the filed complaint, Fisher’s attorneys argue, in part, that a) UT’s plan as it existed before Grutter was good enough because diversity increased under it, and that b) UT-Austin didn’t try other alternatives to increase diversity before adding the racial component to non-10-percenters.
This is fascinating all the way around. However, I think Fisher’s case will fail — primarily because, for all the praise of UT’s pre-Grutter policies, UT-Austin still does not even come close to representing the diversity of Texas.
According to the Census Bureau, Texas’ population is 35% Hispanic and just under 12% Black, while the 2007 enrolled student body at UT-Austin (according to the suit) was 19.7% Hispanic and 5.8% Black. In 2004 (before the admissions policy changes via Grutter), the enrolled student body was 16.9% Hispanic and 4.5% Black.
In other words, UT-Austin isn’t even close to representational of the state’s demographics yet. Furthermore, although I don’t think 1:1 is necessarily reasonable or achievable, to suggest that the current proportions are fine and dandy — or even that the pre-2005 policies were working well — is a long stretch.
And I’m guessing the courts will see it the same way.
Related post at The Moderate Voice, here.