The United States Supreme Court will again consider whether the use of race is appropriate when admitting new students to universities, potentially reversing a 2003 ruling that allowed it for diversity.
Lawyers will make the case that white student Abigail Fisher was improperly rejected from the University of Texas because of racial quotas meant to increase diversity at the public university.
Fisher, who recently graduated from Lousiana State University, told the New York Times that she believes she would have received a better job offer had she been admitted to her first school of choice.
“I’m hoping,” she said, “that they’ll completely take race out of the issue in terms of admissions and that everyone will be able to get into any school that they want no matter what race they are, solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it.”
Since the late 1970s, UT has worked to increase the number of minority students at its campuses, often by considering race in an effort to mirror the racial and cultural diversity of Texas itself.
In 1996, the university was barred from explicitly using race in its admissions process, opting a year later instead to offer the top 10 percent of graduating high school classes in Texas automatic acceptance.
Once the Supreme Court decided in a 2003 case brought against Michigan State University that schools could use race, among several other “special considerations,” to admit students, UT began factoring it in for the roughly 25 percent of students there that are not automatically admitted.
While it allowed race to be used, the Court said in the MSU case that racial quotas still would not be permitted. Fisher’s lawyers contend that the UT system is a quota in disguise because of administrators' vaguely-stated goal to mirror the racial makeup of the state.
Terence Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, one of the more than 20 groups which has filed briefs in the case, told the Associated Press that the unstated diversity goals of UT amount to a quota.
"It is a squishy concept that's being manipulated," Pell said. "It's just sort of diversity for its own sake... with no end and no limit."
According to The Guardian, the Obama administration and several large corporations, Microsoft and Walmart among them, have argued that they require the ability to hire well-trained employees with a diverse racial and cultural background. In the case of the administration, well-educated recruits for the military, FBI, CIA and Department of Homeland Security are a requirement for the agencies ability to achieve their missions, they said.
UT Admissions Director Kedra Ishop told the Associated Press that in addition to the university’s ability to turn out the types of graduates companies and governmental agencies are looking for, it should maintain a proportion of minority students that looks the way the citizenry of Texas does - which she said is critical to its educational mission.
“We saw clearly what happened (in the 90s) when we couldn’t use race,” Ishop said. “It’s not a matter of just saying ‘more more more.” It’s saying ‘We need the ability to make these decisions... We didn’t get here because we woke up one day and, boom, this is what campus looked like. We got here because of very deliberate efforts.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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