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Wednesday, April 9, 2008
University of Texas at Austin Sued for Reviving Race-Conscious Admissions
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a white woman who applied in January for undergraduate admission at UT-Austin and was rejected despite having a 3.59 GPA, solid SAT scores, and a record of participation in extracurricular activities in high school. She is being represented by the Project on Fair Representation, a Washington-based organization that has been pushing the Bush administration to weigh in against UT-Austin's policy.
As discussed at length in Color and Money, Texas public universities were barred from considering race and ethnicity under a 1996 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in the case Hopwood v. Texas. Black and Hispanic enrollments plunged, but then seemed--at least for the most part--to rebound after lawmakers passed a measure guaranteeing students in the top 10 percent of their high school class admission to the Texas public university of their choice.
In 2003, the Supreme Court essentially invalidated the Hopwood decision by upholding the use of race-conscious admissions in its ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the University of Michigan law school. But in that ruling, the Supreme Court also held that colleges must consider alternative ways of achieving diversity on campus before they resort to using affirmative-action preferences.
UT-Austin returned to using race-conscious admissions in 2005. The new lawsuit against it probably will hinge largely on the question of whether the alternatives to preferences used by the university in the wake of Hopwood produced sufficient levels of diversity.
"The top-10-percent plan has proven more successful in achieving diversity than did race-based affirmative action," Edward J. Blum, the director of the Project on Fair Representation, argued in a Chronicle of Higher Education interview. "Because of that, we believe the University of Texas is foreclosed from even considering a student's race."