UT Austin’s Consideration of Race in Admissions is Narrow, Necessary and Constitutional

Aug. 6, 2012

AUSTIN, Texas — Today, the University of Texas at Austin filed its brief to the United States Supreme Court as respondent in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.

The plaintiff in the case claims that she was denied undergraduate admission to the university in 2008 because she is white. But the facts show otherwise. In its brief, the university argues that its admissions system, which considers an applicant's race along with many other factors in an individualized, holistic review, is a constitutional practice that promotes the educational benefits of diversity at the university.

The university’s brief states that "UT has learned through experience that diversity has invaluable educational benefits," and “better prepares students to become the next generation of leaders in an increasingly diverse work force and society.

“UT has a broad vision of diversity, which looks to a wide variety of individual characteristics — including an applicant’s culture; language; family; educational, geographic, and socioeconomic background; work, volunteer, or internship experiences; leadership experiences; special artistic or other talents, as well as race and ethnicity.”

The brief explains that the university’s policy meets the standards set out by the Supreme Court in 2003 in Grutter v. Bollinger and earlier in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Those decisions prohibit racial quotas but acknowledge the importance of diversity and allowed universities to consider race among multiple factors while admitting students.

UT’s admissions system was upheld by both the United States District Court of the Western District of Texas and the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. According to the 5th Circuit, “It would be difficult for UT to construct a policy that more closely resembles the policy approved by the Supreme Court in Grutter.”

Further, the university’s holistic admissions process also avoids all of the concerns about specific targets for minority admissions that Justice Anthony Kennedy raised in his dissent in the Grutter case a decade ago.

Race is just one of many factors — including leadership potential, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, work experience, community service and other special circumstances — that the university considers along with a student's academic record and personal essays to assign a score that determines admissions under the holistic admissions process established in 2005. Race is not an automatic or predominant factor at any point in the admissions process. Further, applicants of any race may benefit from the use of race in the holistic admissions system, which considers an applicant’s race in the context of his or her entire file.

This holistic policy is used to complement the automatic admission policy established by House Bill 588, more commonly known as the Top 10 Percent Law, which guarantees automatic admission to Texas public universities, including UT Austin, for in-state students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class.

The brief filed today argues that the Top 10 Percent Law, by itself, does not ensure the educational benefits of a diverse student body. Indeed, the Top Ten Percent Law bases the admissions decision on only a single criterion — class rank. Holistic review allows for the consideration of a broad array of factors and thus fosters a broad diversity, including diversity within different racial groups.

Supporters of the university's admissions policy will file amicus briefs with the court by Aug. 13. The case will be argued on Oct. 10.

Other resources:

•   Video of UT President Bill Powers discussing the Supreme Court brief

•   Legal documents related to the Fisher case

•   Demographic, Profile Admitted Freshman Class of 2008

For more information, contact: Gary Susswein, Office of the President, 512-471-4945.

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16 Comments to "UT Austin’s Consideration of Race in Admissions is Narrow, Necessary and Constitutional"

1.  Phillip Swinton said on Aug. 6, 2012

It is completely against the collective morality of our people to consider race in situations where one should only be considering merit. American institutions must put a stop to this awful practice, and force these public institutions act according to our moral system.

2.  CC Coyle said on Aug. 6, 2012

What does diversity in skin color represent? Race does not reflect any difference in culture or thought. It does not reflect the quality of an individual... it reflects a biological difference.

Is it right to consider an uncontrollable biological difference that poses no bearing on the intelligence, or quality of a student as a considerable factor in admissions. Opinions may vary.... but is it necessary? Certainly not. There are many more pertinent qualities to consider in acceptance to the University of Texas.

3.  Jarod G said on Aug. 7, 2012

One who comes from a colorblind mentality does not know what it means to be a person of color and where they come from. Being a different color, in and of itself doesn't mean the person thinks differently from a person of the dominant culture. But many times people of color DO think differently from a person of the dominant culture - different values and ways of thinking of the world. The current state of the US education system and politics, tries to minimize these differences to preserve the ease of the Colorblind mentality, when in fact a person of color can/is very different. Some People of color can easily adapt to the value system of the dominant culture - these are often, but not always, the "successful" ones. Its time to live in a world where people can be themselves, but this takes recognition of the dominant culture are people ARE different, and that is NOT a bad thing.

4.  Joshua M said on Aug. 7, 2012

I agree with the university. The immoral issue is regarding some races as undesirable because of excess. I trust that UT isn't guilty of that. Race is often associated with privilege and richness of experience which is critical. The other immoral issue is assuming this is always the case. I think the notion of race and privilege should even out over time to where it's less idealistic to base entrance on merit alone. Personally, I would like entrance to be based on merit alone because I worked so hard in high school and now college. I know that's inappropriate for our current situation.

5.  David said on Aug. 8, 2012

What a disappointment. We are STILL using race-based formulas for admission?! When will this racism end?

6.  James W. Smith said on Aug. 9, 2012

Because of America's past history, and our being a nation of immigrants, it is impossible to exclude race as one of the factors considered in the admission policies at our public institutions of higher learning. It would be immoral to do less.

7.  John Mihic said on Aug. 10, 2012

Define "race". Next define exactly how one determines who qualifies as being a member of one race vs. another. For example, is Obama black or white? What about Lolo Jones? To my eyes Colin Powell doesn't look anything like Usain Bolt. Well, I'm pretty sure my ancestors (and yours) came out of Africa about 100,000 years ago, so if Elizabeth Warren can claim to be a native American, using the same (albeit extended) logic I'm going to claim I'm an African American the next time I have to fill out a form. Seriously though, I do wonder how this issue of race definition will be addressed in the court case because I sure can't define the demarcation between races (whatever those are).

8.  Emily Lantz said on Aug. 11, 2012

To Abigail Fisher, who is suing UT because she didn't get into the university "because she is white", and getting into the top 10% at her high school was "really hard": so what DID you do to diversify your application when you knew you weren't going to be top 10%? Did you study your butt off to make perfect SAT or ACT scores? Take some SAT subject tests and ace them too? Work 3 jobs? Go to all-state orchestra and place 1st? Do over 2000 hours of community service? Inspire community "green" outreach programs for your school and win environmental excellence awards?

No?

Maybe then, UT didn't judge you on your race, but rather, your character. Maybe your resume showed you lacked work ethic, and the drive to go above and beyond. There are plenty of "white" students at UT who weren't in the top 10% of their graduating class. I was in the top 25%. You know what? They worked incredibly hard so UT wouldn't think they were average. UT doesn't accept average, that's why "what starts here changes the world".

9.  Steven said on Aug. 12, 2012

This makes me MUCH less likely to apply to UT Austin for graduate study. The Lone Star state's loss.

10.  Jarod Gonzalez said on Aug. 12, 2012

I would like to follow up that I do agree with UT case of including race in admissions policies. Throughout the history of the US, the political and educational arena has been drenched in inequality. This inequality, we try to fix through time but we are not there yet. A good example would be: If there was a a Hispanic student that was born in a poor town with lets say a 130 IQ and took 3 AP classes (bc thats all his high school offered) and then proceed to take the SAT and got a 1200. Lets say there was another student born into a rich family and went to a great highschool with lots of AP classes. Lets say the student had an IQ of 130 or even 120 - 9 times out of 10 that student will score higher on the SAT - their highschool had more resources to work with. IF that Hispanic student went to that great highschool he/she could probably get a higher score on their SAT. The majority of hispanics in Texas do are not growing up in these rich neighboorhoods (not to say any dont) and this is not to say all "white" people grow up in rich neighboorhoods also..but Im just looking at the averages/trends. Merit cannot be accurately measure by test scores alone, so a wholistic process IS necessary.

11.  Lucy said on Aug. 13, 2012

The 10% rule accounts for an overwhelming majority of the diversity at UT, thus merit is far and away the top criteria for entry. One girl, with all the advantages life could offer, didn't make the grades. “Merit” alone wouldn't have changed that, so all this talk of how “immoral” it is to individualize the entrance process is moot.

If you just missed the top 10% but you were sick, suffered a bereavement, maintained outstanding extra-curricular participation or were in a very small class.. then those places have discretion to let you in. It also applies if you were from a disadvantaged background and had to work against the system. To deny that someone could be disadvantaged because of their race is to underplay a horrible history of intentionally doing just that.

Merit alone is bureaucratic, impersonal and a cover up for continuing a pattern of exclusion. I hope to see the day that race is an irrelevant characteristic to equal opportunity but that day has not yet come. Until then, the discretion to consider it as one of many factors, is crucial.

Oh I forgot, I'm white and very middle class. Awareness and ignorance alike are colorless human traits, although sometimes I wonder.

12.  kareen said on Aug. 13, 2012

Although Fisher failed to qualify academically, and even in terms of extracurricular activities, passion and vision that UT looks for in all applicants, it seems that she wants to be admitted just because she's white.

There seem to be a sweeping assumption by some that UT Austin admits all colored persons that pass through their halls.

In retrospect, admission through any university goes beyond academic. Frankly, if an applicant is academically average, then that applicant better make sure he/she has the deeds, passion, and vision to make stand out from the rest.

From what I gathered, Fisher failed both aspects, and also failed to think of the possibility that colored persons who were admitted, passed both or at least one of the qualifying factors to be even considered for admission.

In addition, the character of this lawsuit seem to imply that colored students are not worthy of admission if Fisher can't qualify.

13.  Morgan said on Aug. 13, 2012

It's a simple test: Run her profile through admissions with any other race or ethnic profile; if she would get in, the university has failed, if not the university is blameless.

14.  John said on Aug. 13, 2012

Would anybody else love it if hospitals put any emphasis on race when hiring doctors and surgeons? In the name of diversity, I think it's awesome that a qualified individual is passed up simply because his skin isn't the right color. /s

15.  Joshua M said on Aug. 14, 2012

I worked in a local high school with a minority population. One of the students I met had a natural prejudice toward whites. Not hate just prejudice. I don't believe he was aware until I brought it up. I was careful to model the right behavior. Based on what I divulged from him, I think that prejudice is a natural inclination people develop when they lack exposure to variation. Think of stereotyping because of hostile bias. It's something that a lot of people do. Long beards equate to terrorism. It's wrong but it's a survival instinct. Increase your exposure to people with long beards and all of a sudden you no longer have a prejudice. One gravitates toward mistrust when faced with a lack of exposure to diversity. The notion of race, in my opinion is moving toward being subjective. An issue of identity. Not that I advocate one way or another. I like to study the future and patterns of thinking. I think a color blind society is possible but won't happen until we account for in-group/out-group behaviors. UT has it right. As bad as it sounds, forced diversity is, much like war at times, a necessary evil.

16.  Megan C said on Aug. 15, 2012

Some great thoughts on this page. Here's another thought: why would we want to have a "color blind" society, as opposed to a diverse society in which we fully honor and learn from difference?