Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, et al., a high-profile case in which Abigail Fisher, who is white, alleges she was disadvantaged when The University of Texas System Board of Regents, UT and officials of both denied her admission in 2008 by following a policy that allowed for racial considerations.
In her April 7, 2008, complaint, Fisher claimed that UT’s complex admissions policy — which takes into account the race of applicants who are not automatically admitted because they were in the top 10 percent of their public high-school class — violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. Texas’ Top 10 Percent Law, Texas Education Code §51.803, took effect in 1998. In 2004, the university added race as a “special circumstance” factor in admissions after a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) that public schools can consider race as one factor for admissions in their efforts to achieve diversity.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks of Austin granted the defense motion for summary judgment in Fisher on Aug. 17, 2009. On Jan. 18, a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the constitutionality of UT’s consideration of race in its 2008 admissions process. The 5th Circuit denied en banc review.
In Fisher’s cert petition, she framed the question for the high court: “Whether this Court’s decisions interpreting the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment including Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), permit the University of Texas at Austin’s use of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.”
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