AUSTIN – The University of Texas filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in which it defended its admissions policy of using race as one of its standards.
Abigail Fisher, a white student who was not admitted to the school in 2008, filed a lawsuit challenging the policy as violation of her civil and constitutional rights. The Supreme Court agreed in February to consider the case, setting the stage for its first ruling on affirmative action in higher education since 2003.
The case is being watched closely for a broad ruling that could impact admissions policy at public and private universities nationwide.
Most of the students admitted to the University of Texas rank among the top 10 percent in their high school classes. For other students, Texas officials say race is considered among many factors, including academic record, personal essays, leadership potential, extracurricular activities, and honors and awards. The school says race is not used to set quotas, which the high court has previously rejected.
This policy allows us to gain the benefits of a diverse student body...We're confident we will prevail in this case.
The school says its policy, first used in 2005, conforms to a 2003 Supreme Court ruling that upheld racial considerations in university admissions at the University of Michigan Law School.
"This policy allows us to gain the benefits of a diverse student body," university President Bill Powers said in a video statement. "We're confident we will prevail in this case."
The Texas policy has been upheld by federal appeals courts. Fisher pressed her claims to the Supreme Court, where a more conservative court that than the one that ruled in 2003 could jettison that decision or at least limit when colleges may take account of race in admissions.
Before adopting race as part of its admission policy, Texas' student body was 21 percent African-American and Hispanic. By 2007, the year before Fisher filed her lawsuit, African-Americans and Hispanics accounted for more than a quarter of the entering freshman class.
Fisher's challenge says the Top Ten Percent law was already working to increase student diversity.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.