U.S. SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS CONSIDERATION OF RACE BY UNIVERSITIES, BUT REQUIRES FURTHER COURT REVIEW OF UT-AUSTIN'S ADMISSION PLAN
U.S. SUPREME COURT AFFIRMS CONSIDERATION OF RACE BY UNIVERSITIES
WASHINGTON, DC - Today, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Fisher v. Texas, affirming public universities' right to consider the race of an applicant for admission as part of a holistic review of the applicant’s file, but held that the University of Texas at Austin’s undergraduate admissions plan requires further review in the lower courts to determine if it complies with the Court’s restrictions on such policies. MALDEF, which has been actively representing amici since the case was being considered in 2008 by a federal district court, filed an amicus brief on behalf of itself and twenty-two other national Latino organizations and associations asking the Court to affirm a university’s limited consideration of race for qualified applicants in seeking to maintain a diverse student body.
Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, “A solid Supreme Court majority has essentially reaffirmed the constitutionality of considering race in higher education admissions as a step toward ensuring diversity in university classrooms. Despite the Court's remand, we are confident that the University of Texas can demonstrate the necessity and narrowness of its program, particularly in light of the state's long and ongoing history of inequity in K-12 schooling.”
Plaintiff Abigail Fisher filed suit on April 7, 2008, against UT-Austin alleging that the university denied her admission on the basis of her race. In 2004, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, which upheld a university’s right to pursue student diversity, UT-Austin determined that it lacked racial diversity among its student body and added race to its list of many factors it considered as part of its holistic review of applications for students not automatically admitted under the State of Texas’s Top Ten Percent law. (The race-neutral Top Ten Percent admissions plan was not challenged in this lawsuit.) A federal district court denied Ms. Fisher’s claim, holding that UT-Austin’s limited use of race met the limits of Grutter, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, affirmed the lower court decision in 2011. Some parties to the action had asked the Supreme Court to throw out any consideration of race, but the Court refused to overturn its precedent in Grutter established only 10 years ago.
“The Court recognized and affirmed the great importance of student diversity, and not just for those students whose race may have been considered but for all other students,” stated MALDEF lead counsel David Hinojosa. “To the chagrin of the anti-diversity camp, the door to equal opportunity has not been slammed shut. We will remain involved in the case to ensure that qualified Latino students continue to access higher education.”
MALDEF’s co-counsel on the Supreme Court amicus brief included Walter Dellinger and Anton Metlisky, et al., with O’Melveny & Meyers and Juan Cartagena and Jose Perez with LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.