A verdict may soon be reached on higher education affirmative action.
The Supreme Court is reviewing the case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in an effort to come up with a decision on whether UT Austin’s admissions policies are racially discriminating on an unfair basis.
Abigail Fisher, a white student from Suglarland, Texas, was denied admittance to the Texas university in Fall 2008 and filed suit claiming that her Fourteenth Amendment rights had been violated in favor of “minority applicants with lesser credentials,” according to case records.
At the time of Fisher’s application, UT Austin did not have an Affirmative Action policy as it adhered to the top 10 percent rule, which allowed automatic admission to a public Texas school for any student in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class.
Officials said the policy has changed to the top seven percent due to the sheer number of applicants.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the university in late 2009. After a lengthy review of the case the court came to a unanimous 3-0 decision that Fisher had no grounds for the suit and dismissed the case, deciding that UT’s admission policies fit within its rights as a university.
After the lower court’s decision was made, Fisher’s attorney filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. The case is now in review along with the precedent set in Grutter v. Bollinger, which found the use of race in determining admissions to be acceptable under the Fourteenth Amendment and Equal Protection Clause.
Gene Roberts, the Director of Student Legal and Mediation Services, said the Fisher case is one in a long line of similar cases.
“Several of the judges seemed to have questions about whether Fisher had standing to bring the case because she did not attempt to re-enroll at the University of Texas,” Roberts said. “The harm analysis is one that the court has struggled with in a variety of cases and it will be intriguing to see how the court resolves that issue.”
If overturned, universities nationwide could have to take race out of the decision process completely. UT Austin has warned that overturning the landmark case would require mass reevaluation of admissions policies throughout the United States, according to case records.
The potential dissolution of affirmative action is unclear because of the tight political split on the court. It is unknown when deliberations will come to a close.