Feature

Was Abigail Fisher Denied Admission to UT Because She’s White?
By Rebecca E. Neely Has the pendulum of the civil rights movement begun to swing the other way?

In recent days, the United States Supreme Court agreed it would review the case of Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas, which challenges the constitutionality of the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policy, as regards racial preferences. Essentially, Fisher contends that, taking into account all other qualifications, she should have been admitted to the school in 2008, but was not, simply because she is Caucasian. That same year, she sued, and lost, at both the U.S. District Court in Austin and at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. In September of 2011, she filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. Washington, DC-based legal defense foundation, The Project on Fair Representation, represented Fisher in her case of socalled ‘reverse discrimination.’ Edward Blum, director of the Project on Fair Representation, was quoted as saying in the news.yahoo.com article, “U. S. Supreme Court To Hear Texas Affirmative Action Case-Fisher v. Univ. of Texas”: “Abby Fisher and thousands of past applicants have been unfairly denied admission to the University of Texas based upon its unconstitutional use of racial preferences. It is deeply gratifying that the justices have agreed to hear this case. This case presents the Court with an opportunity to clarify the boundaries of race preferences in higher education or even reconsider whether race should be permitted at all under the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.” At the heart of the matter is the 2003 case of Grutter v. Bollinger, on which the University of Texas based its admission policy; this resulted in a reintroduction of racial preferences in said policy. The ruling in that case basically indicated that the race of a student could be considered as a factor in granting admission so as to have greater diversity in its student population.

As well, however, Grutter indicated that before racial preference was used as a means of determining admission, a school “…must first make a good faith effort to find a raceneutral means to achieve diversity,” per the news.yahoo.com article. Fisher contends that the University’s policy in place in 2003 was neutral regarding race, and yet was successful in achieving diversity. Therefore, changing said policy was not necessary, and thus, unconstitutional. Fisher was quoted in the article as having said in a statement: “My family and I are grateful that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear my case. I hope the Court will decide that all future UT applicants will be allowed to compete for admission without their race or ethnicity being a factor.” Race, as it relates to admissions, has been a thorny issue for Texas for decades. Segregation was once enforced by the state, and only in 1950 did UT admit blacks to its law and graduate schools, and then, only because of a Supreme Court ruling. More recently, affirmative action was relied upon by the state to increase the enrollment of minorities. However, Hopwood v. Texas put the kibosh on that. In a nutshell, in that case, four white plaintiffs who’d been denied admission to the University of Texas School of Law were the first to successfully challenge the school’s admissions policy on equal protection grounds. Founded in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin is a state research university and has the fifth-largest single-campus enrollment in the country. As well, UT is known as one of the original eight Public Ivy institutions.

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