On October 10th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of Fisher v. Austin on whether prior Supreme Court decisions on racial equality, including the latest college admissions decision in 2003, permit the University of Texas to use race in the selection of its freshman classes.
The Fisher case focuses on the admissions policy at the University of Texas at Austin (UT). While the majority of in-state students are admitted because they rank in the top ten percent of their class, there is an additional admissions policy for l5% of the class that takes into account additional factors including, but not limited to, community service, extracurricular activities, family responsibilities, socio-economic status and race. The UT admissions policy was challenged in the federal courts by a white student who believed that she was denied admission because of race. Her challenge was rejected by the lower courts and she appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The League of Women Voters joined the Brennan Center in filing a friend-of-the-court brief urging the Court to uphold the University of Texas of Austin’s admissions policies, including the university’s reasonable efforts to encourage diversity in its classrooms. The amicus brief urges the Court to recognize that diversity in higher education is crucial for the success of our multi-racial democracy.
The League has joined in this case because of our long held belief that racial and ethnic diversity in educational settings is critical to our country’s democratic institutions and as such is a compelling state interest. One of the League’s primary goals is to promote an open governmental system that is representative, accountable, and responsible and that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision making.
To further that goal, the League has fought since its inception to ensure that every citizen can fully and productively participate in American society, from the school room to the ballot box.