Supreme Court decision could fundamentally alter the future of higher education in Texas
(Austin, Texas)//Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) and 37 other members of the Texas House and Senate today filed with the US Supreme Court an amicus brief defending the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policy and Texas’ efforts to increase diversity on college campuses.
The brief was filed in the case of Fisher v. Texas, a challenge to the University of Texas’ admissions program, which is scheduled to be heard by the US Supreme Court in October. The suit could reverse progress made in increasing diversity at Texas’ flagship universities.
The University of Texas’ current admissions policy was crafted following the passage of the Top 10 Percent plan and the criteria established by the US Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. In that decision, the Court ruled 5-4 that public universities had a compelling interest in promoting diversity and, therefore, could use race as one of many factors in admissions decisions.
“In the Texas of the 21st century, UT’s admissions policies strike the delicate balance of ensuring fairness and diversity,” said Ellis. “The truth is the policies were created using the direction of the legislature and by using exact criteria set out by the Court just nine years ago in Grutter v. Bollinger.”
Texas has been down this road before. In the mid-1990s, the Hopwood decision banned consideration of race in Texas admissions decisions, and diversity at our college campuses plummeted. The 1997-98 freshman class at the University of Texas at Austin saw African American admissions drop 28 percent. Of the 500 students enrolled at the UT Law School that year, only four were black and 25 were Hispanic. Overall, African American enrollment at all public law schools fell nearly 25 percent between 1996 and 1997, and the percentage of African American freshmen at UT Law was lower than when it was desegregated in 1946.
“I fear that if the Supreme Court overturns UT’s admissions policies, we will likely see campuses that do not reflect a state as diverse as Texas,” said Ellis. “I pray the Supreme Court will recognize the wisdom of its prior decision, because we cannot afford to roll back the clock on a half century of progress.”