Appeals Court sides with UT Austin in race-based admission case

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This screen shot from the appeal court's ruling shows a chart mapping the admission process under UT Austin's holistic review program. An appeals court ruled Tuesday that the University of Texas at Austin can use race as a factor in its admission process. The story started in 2008 when Abigail Fisher, a white Texas student, was one of 17,131 Texas residents applying for 1,216 spots open for Texans. These were spots left over after the top 10 percent of students were already admitted under Texas’ Top Ten Percent Plan, which dictates that students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes in the Lone Star State are automatically enrolled at UT Austin. Instead, Fisher was considered under the holistic review program, which uses a number of factors, “including demonstrated leadership qualities, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, essays, work experience, community service, and special circumstances, such as the applicant’s socioeconomic status, family composition, special family responsibilities, the socioeconomic status of the applicant’s high school, and race,” the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling notes. Well, she didn’t make it and Fisher sued, citing a violation of her 14th Amendment rights. And this is the second time the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Fisher, who may appeal the decision to the Supreme Court – for a second time, the Associated Press reported. Last year, the Supreme Court handed the case back to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and directed the court to use a stricter approach to reviewing UT Austin’s “race-conscious” admission program. The court, which stuck to its original decision, voted 2-1 in UT Austin’s favor with Judge Emilio Garza dissenting. “On this record, the University has not ‘offered sufficient evidence that would prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity.’ Accordingly, I would reverse and render judgment for Fisher,” Garza wrote. University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa praised the ruling. “We are pleased that the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the findings of the district court to uphold The University of Texas at Austin’s holistic admissions process,” Cigarroa said. “The University of Texas System is committed to maintaining policies that sustain a diverse student population on UT campuses and we respect and appreciate the careful deliberation on this matter.” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas Legal and Policy Director Rebecca Robertson said the ruling is good news for Texas. “The simple fact is, college graduates are better prepared to serve our diverse state when the academic environment includes people from all walks of life and with different life experiences,” Robertson said.

5th Circuit UT Race Ruling

     

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