The University of Texas at Austin filed its brief to the United States Supreme Court in response to the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin on Aug. 6.
In response to a case where a student claims she was denied undergraduate admission to the University of Texas at Austin because she is white, the university released a statement on Monday saying race is a necessary and constitutional admissions factor.
In their brief filed to the United States Supreme Court, the university argues that its admissions process is a constitutional practice that promotes the educational benefits of diversity.
The university considers an applicant’s race, along with other factors including extracurricular activities, leadership potential, work experience and honors, to determine whether a student is accepted into the university or not.
“UT has a broad vision of diversity, which looks to a wide variety of individual characteristics, including an applicant’s culture; language; family; educational, geographical and socioeconomic background; work, volunteer and internship experiences; special artistic or other talents, as well as race and ethnicity,” the brief stated.
The case in question, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, was filed in 2008 when Abigail Noel Fisher was denied admission for what she thought was because of her race. The case will be on the Supreme Court’s calendar for the term beginning in October 2012. However, the university said their policy meets the standards set out by the Supreme Court in 2003.
Decisions in previous cases, such as Grutter v. Bollinger and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, prohibit racial quotas, but acknowledge the importance of diversity and allowed universities to consider race when admitting students.
"I think it is unfair UT is saying race is a necessary factor to admissions because there are many other things that can affect how well a student does when they get to college,” Kellie McKnight, senior journalism major, said.
Others believe using race as a factor in admission could also be a justification in applicant’s exclusion to the university.
UT states race is not an automatic or predominant factor during the admissions process. Its admissions system is used to complement the Top 10 Percent Law, which bases the admissions decision on only one factor: class rank.
“I do not think we have the luxury, economically, of being so lenient with the admissions process,” Jerry Chapa, senior advertising major, said. “I feel like there is a lot of aid that is wasted on students who were accepted into the university but failed out because they truly weren't prepared.”
The Top 10 Percent Rule Law, also known as House Bill 588, automatically grants in –state students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their high school class admission to any Texas public university. Fisher had just missed the top ten percent cutoff and was considered based on her talents, leadership qualities, family circumstances, as well as race.
In 2011, Senate Bill 175, allowed the university to modify its admissions process, now automatically admitting only the top eight percent.
"I agree and I disagree with the top ten percent rule. If you go to a school with close to a thousand students, I see how the rule could be fair to students getting in,” McKnight said. “Overall, I think if a university would look at all applications fairly, I think the ten percent rule could be done away with."
UT argues that the Top 10 Percent Law does not provide the educational benefits of a diverse student body. The university’s current admissions process allows for acceptance based on many factors and creates a broad diversity, including diversity within different racial groups.
“I think it's great that the university is actively trying to promote diversity with programs such as Explore UT and Subiendo, but using race in the admissions process seems a bit archaic,” Chapa said.
UT President Bill Powers explaining the brief: