Fisher Could End Affirmative Action

Back to November 2012 Ed Reporter

Fisher Could End Affirmative Action

In October the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case Fisher v. Texas, the outcome of which could determine the future of affirmative action policies for colleges and universities throughout the country.

The question the Supreme Court is reviewing is: Is the University of Texas justified in including race as a factor in admission decisions?

The case involves Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 and who contends she was not offered admission because of her race.

In Fisher v. Texas, the plaintiff argues that the UT policy’s inclusion of race violates her constitutional rights, specifically under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which states, “No state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The University of Texas currently uses a race-blind process to automatically accept enough students to fill 75% of available Texas resident spaces, a policy known as Texas’s “Top Ten Percent Plan.” Until 2011, this meant students in the top 10% of each Texas high school’s graduating class were guaranteed admission, regardless of race. The rank requirement now changes annually, based on which rank is necessary to meet the 75% quota; Texas students hoping to enroll in the fall of 2014 will need to be in the top 7% of their graduating classes by the end of their junior year.

The University then fills the remaining spots in the upcoming class by evaluating students holistically, which means such things as high-school coursework and activities, test scores, and essays, as well as race and cultural background, are considered.

The Supreme Court’s decision could overturn the current standard set by Grutter v. Bollinger, a 2003 case concerning the University of Michigan law school. In that case, the Court ruled schools are constitutionally able to consider race in admissions as long as it is only one factor among many.