Despite a federal judge’s dismissal this week, the fight to end racial discrimination in college admissions still continues in Texas and across the nation.
On Monday, federal Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas threw out a lawsuit that challenged the University of Texas at Austin’s discriminatory admissions rules. The lawsuit claimed administration officials recently denied two white student applicants equal opportunity because of their skin color.
“For recent admissions cycles, UT-Austin has continued to ask students to classify themselves from among a select group of broad racial categories on the application … and it still discriminates on the basis of race in admitting the portion of the freshman class enrolled outside the operation of the Top Ten Percent Plan,” the lawsuit read.
“In other words, UT-Austin gives special preference to applicants who fall within racial categories that the university considers ‘underrepresented.’ Given the limited number of spaces in UT-Austin’s freshman class, granting a racial preference to African-American and Hispanic applicants diminishes the chances of admission for White and Asian-American applicants.”
The lawsuit was brought by Students for Fair Admissions, a “nonprofit membership group of more than 20,000 students, parents, and others who believe that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.”
“Our mission is to support and participate in litigation that will restore the original principles of our nation’s civil rights movement: A student’s race and ethnicity should not be factors that either harm or help that student to gain admission to a competitive university,” the group’s website reads.
The group and its founder, Edward Blum, have tried before to overrule similar racial discrimination policies at UT and several schools across the country, including in their 2016 high-profile U.S. Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Though the high court ruled 4-3 in favor of the university, dissenting Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito respectively called the school’s policies “unconstitutional” and “systemic racial discrimination.”
“[T]he Constitution abhors classifications based on race because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all,” wrote Justice Thomas. “That constitutional imperative does not change in the face of a ‘faddish theory’ that racial discrimination may produce ‘educational benefits.’”
“What is at stake,” according to Justice Alito, “is whether university administrators may justify systematic racial discrimination simply by asserting that such discrimination is necessary to achieve ‘the educational benefits of diversity,’ without explaining—much less proving—why the discrimination is needed or how the discriminatory plan is well crafted to serve its objectives.”
“Even though UT has never provided any coherent explanation for its asserted need to discriminate on the basis of race, and even though UT’s position relies on a series of unsupported and noxious racial assumptions, the majority concludes that UT has met its heavy burden,” Alito continued. “This conclusion is remarkable—and remarkably wrong.”
In Monday’s ruling, Judge Pitman wrote Student’s for Fair Admissions most recent lawsuit made similar arguments as their past Supreme court case, and that “The alleged changes that [the group] brings forward about UT’s admissions program do not rise to the level of being ‘significant’ such that they ‘create new legal conditions,’ that would allow for relitigation of these claims.”
However, even apart from the racial discrimination lawsuits, the University of Texas’ admissions office already has a controversial and corrupt past, including their 2009-2014 scandal where at least hundreds of under-qualified students gained admission to the school because of their political connections. The scandal led to the resignation of then-UT President Bill Powers, who was at the center of the operation.
And according to Student’s for Fair Admissions, UT has not only provided “no indication” they’ve stopped that practice of special favors for well-connected applicants, but the university is now also furthering their discrimination against students of certain skin colors.
“Feeling liberated by [the second Fisher case decision], however, UT-Austin has increased its reliance on race,” the group’s most recent lawsuit reads. “UT-Austin now reports that an applicant’s ‘racial/ethnic status’ is a ‘very important’ factor in UT-Austin’s admissions decisions. Thus, to UT-Austin, a student’s skin color is equally important to admissions as class rank, test scores, extracurricular activities, and other accomplishments.”
SFA founderBlum said on Tuesday that though he is “disappointed” in the court’s ruling, their fight still moves forward.
“We look forward to asking the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to review and reverse the dismissal of this important civil rights case.”