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Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

136 S. Ct. 2198 (2016)

tl;dr: Top 10% plan is a valid use of affirmative action.

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The legal case involves Abigail Fisher's challenge against the University of Texas at Austin's race-conscious admissions program. The University previously used a system that gave preference to racial minorities, but it was invalidated by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1996. The University then adopted a new admissions policy that did not consider race, but instead used an applicant's Academic Index and Personal Achievement Index based on a holistic review of their application. The Texas Legislature also enacted the Top Ten Percent Law, which guarantees college admission to students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class. The University implemented this law and filled the rest of its freshman class using AI and PAI scores, without considering race. The University used this admissions system until 2003 when the Supreme Court decided Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. Gratz struck down the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions system that allocated predetermined points to racial minority candidates, while Grutter upheld the University of Michigan Law School's system of holistic review that treated race as a relevant feature within the broader context of a candidate's application. Grutter implicitly overruled Hopwood's categorical prohibition. After Grutter, the University conducted a study and concluded that its admissions policy was not providing the educational benefits of a diverse student body to all of its undergraduate students. However, it is important to note that the previous race-conscious admissions policy was invalidated by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in 1996.

The University of Texas at Austin considers race as a subfactor in its admissions process as part of a holistic review, which has been upheld by the Supreme Court as narrowly tailored to promote diversity and passes strict scrutiny. The University conducted a study and concluded that race-neutral policies were not successful in achieving sufficient diversity. The petitioner's argument that the University did not need to consider race in its admissions process is not supported by the record. The Court affirms the University's admissions policy but emphasizes that the University must continue to reflect and refine its policies. Justice Thomas disagrees with the Court's decision and believes that the use of race in higher education admissions is prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause. UT has frequently modified its admissions policies over the past 20 years and has generally used race and ethnicity aggressively in its admissions process.

The University of Texas' use of race in admissions lacks a clear and specific definition of its goal, making it difficult for a court to determine if it is narrowly tailored and passes strict scrutiny. UT's pursuit of demographic parity through racial balancing is unconstitutional and lacks a defined goal or standard. UT's race-conscious plan is insufficiently justified and discriminates against Asian-American students. UT's argument for intraracial diversity is based on unfounded assumptions and pernicious stereotypes that violate the Equal Protection Clause. UT's interest in avoiding feelings of loneliness and isolation among minority students is unsupported by sufficient evidence and cannot satisfy strict scrutiny. Therefore, UT's interest in avoiding racial isolation cannot justify the use of racial preferences. Race-neutral options should be considered instead. The lower court did not find any faults in UT's reasoning, but a clear and specific definition of the policy's goal is necessary for a thorough review.

The Supreme Court found UT's use of racial classifications in admissions unconstitutional as it failed to meet the strict scrutiny standard and was not narrowly tailored. UT did not provide evidence that showed that race-conscious review was necessary or more effective than race-blind review. The case raises questions about whether a university can use racial discrimination for diversity without proper justification. The majority opinion criticized UT for lacking good faith and relying on race-based processes without proper examination, while the dissenting opinion argued that UT's reasoning was unclear and unsupported.

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Facts & Holding

Facts:In Fisher I, the court declined to strike down the...

Holding:Precedent has made clear that the compelling interest that justifies...

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Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

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