Federal Court Upholds UT's Consideration of Race in Admissions Program

Ruling comports with MALDEF's argument in amicus brief by rejecting lawsuit seeking to dismantle affirmative action admissions plan

August 18, 2009

AUSTIN, TX – In one of the first decisions weighing the consideration of race in a university's admissions plan since the Supreme Court's ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), an Austin federal district court judge upheld the University of Texas at Austin's limited consideration of race for admissions. The plaintiffs, two Anglo students, had challenged the use of race by UT Austin under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but the court rejected their claims, ruling that UT Austin has a compelling interest in seeking a diverse student body and its means of achieving that interest are narrowly tailored.

In support of the university defendants in this case, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the nation’s leading legal civil rights organization, submitted an amicus brief on behalf of Texas LULAC and both current UT students and future students. Citing the growth of Latinos in Texas public schools compared to the low Latino enrollment at UT Austin and the lack of Latinos in professional employment and leadership positions, MALDEF argued that UT Austin should be allowed to improve its Latino admissions by using both the race-neutral Top Ten Percent Plan and a race-conscious affirmative action plan. The Court agreed, stating that "Nothing in Grutter prohibits a university from using both race neutral alternatives and race itself. . ."

"The Court's ruling sends a strong message to universities across the nation that race can still be a factor when considering applications for admissions," stated Nina Perales, MALDEF's Southwest Regional Counsel.

"Through the Top Ten Percent Plan and UT's admissions plan, more qualified Latino students are entering UT than ever before," added David Hinojosa, MALDEF lead attorney. "This ruling helps keep UT's doors open and students' dreams alive."

Following the Grutter decision that upheld the University of Michigan School of Law's affirmative action admissions plan, in 2005 UT Austin added race as one of many factors that it would consider in evaluating a student's application. In April 2008, two Anglo high school seniors filed suit against UT Austin arguing that they were denied admission because of their race. The district court found that UT Austin's limited consideration of race had complied with Grutter and was constitutional.

The law firm of Wilmer, Cutler, Pickering, Hale and Dorr, LLP assisted in drafting the amicus brief.

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund