By Jamilla Jamison
A few weeks ago, my colleague Yamilet Medina López posted a blog about the much-discussed Fisher v. University of Texas – Austin Supreme Court case. In an effort to keep the WACAC and higher education community informed of new developments in college admission and higher education, the DEA committee wanted to provide updated and additional information about the case.
On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments once again in the case now known as Fisher II, after it first came to the high court in 2013. Plaintiff Abigail Fisher alleges that the university discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The University of Texas at Austin accepts students in the top 10% of each Texas high school’s graduating class, regardless of race. The remaining admitted students are admitted via a holistic review process through which numerous factors including leadership roles, awards, adversity, race and much more are all considered. The holistic review process is used, just as with many other colleges, in order to build a diverse campus community and provide the best possible education for its students.
SCOTUS first heard Fisher in 2012 and on June 24, 2013 the Fifth Circuit’s decision was vacated and the Supreme Court ruled that the Fifth Circuit failed to apply strict scrutiny to the university’s race-conscious admissions policy. In 2014, the Fifth Circuit decided in favor of the university and the Supreme Court decided to hear arguments in the case once again. An amicus brief was filed by The College Board, AACRAO, NACAC and LSAC on October 30, 2015 in support of the University of Texas at Austin.
You may have noticed an increase of the hashtag #staymadabby on your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Social media quickly began to respond to comments made by Justice Antonin Scalia during oral arguments on Wednesday:
“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to – to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a less – a slower-track school where they do well…They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re – that they’re being pushed ahead in – in classes that are too – too fast for them….Most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools.”
Scalia’s comments are likely referring to the mismatch theory described in an amicus brief by Richard Sander in support of neither party.
His remarks hit home with many UT Austin students and alumni who, throughout the weekend, tweeted photos of themselves in caps and gowns as well as statistics in response to Scalia’s comments. In truth, African American students make up just about 4 percent of UT Austin’s first-year class. Scalia’s comments also underlined challenges that minority students at UT Austin and other colleges/universities across the nation are experiencing from their peers and faculty.
The Supreme Court was largely divided as it heard oral arguments on Wednesday and decision is expected in June. To learn more about what was covered during oral arguments, you can download an audio recording and/or read the transcript from Wednesday on the SCOTUS website here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_arguments/audio/2015/14-981.