States and colleges across the nation anxiously await a pending Supreme court ruling on the Fisher vs University of Texas case where two white students who were denied entry into UT Austin filed suit against the university in 2008. Most students are admitted to UT Austin under the Top Ten Percent Plan, which guarantees admission to all Texas students in the top ten percent of their high school class. The remaining students are admitted under a holistic admissions process that considers race as one of many factors in a student’s application file. Abigail Fisher and the other student asserted they were wrongly rejected by the university while minority students with similar grades and test scores were admitted.
The admissions policy at issue in Fisher has two components: Most students are admitted under a state law (the “Top Ten Percent Plan”), which requires the University of Texas at Austin to admit all Texas residents who rank in the top ten percent of their high school class. For the remainder of the class, UT undertakes a holistic “whole-file” review of applications. This process allows the school to consider additional criteria, such as essays, leadership qualities, extracurricular activities, awards, work experience, community service, family responsibilities, socio-economic status, languages spoken in the home, and—as of 2005—race. It is this modest consideration of race alongside a host of other factors that is now at issue in the Supreme Court.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) has played a key role in Fisher, filing briefs at every stage of the litigation and presenting oral argument in the court of appeals in support of the diversity policy adopted by UT. On April 13, 2009, the LDF filed a friend of court brief in the district court in Texas. LDF’s friend of the court brief was filed on behalf of the Black Student Alliance at UT Austin. The brief emphasized the limited enrollment of, and isolation experienced by, African-American and other students of color in the eight-year period before UT Austin reinstituted race as a factor in admissions for the 2005 entering class. As a consequence, LDF argued, all students were deprived of the educational benefits of diversity.
Statements were heard in October and November of 2012. The Supreme Court is expected to provide a ruling before going on break.