The UT admissions lawsuit

I haven’t paid much attention to the latest lawsuit over the University of Texas’ admissions standards and practices – as with school finance lawsuits, I’ve lost count of how many there have been in my lifetime – but there are some interesting issues in this one to be decided.

On its surface, the case of Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas revolves around whether the school’s consideration of race in admissions led to the rejection of a white student.

But as the case nears the Supreme Court’s fall docket, it is also stirring a debate about the impact of affirmative action policies on Asian-American students and casting a spotlight on the stereotype of Asian-Americans as “the model minority.”

On one side, Fisher and her supporters, including the 80-20 National Asian American Educational Foundation, argue that the race-conscious admissions policies discriminate against qualified Asian-American students in favor of less-qualified African-American and Latino students.

On the other side, a coalition of more than 100 Asian-American groups has filed briefs backing the UT-Austin policy, saying it benefits Asian-American students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“UT’s process of individualized review advances its compelling interest in achieving the educational benefits of student diversity, increases the likelihood of admission for those who do not have the same social mobility and capital as others, and has the potential to benefit all Asian-American and Pacific Islander applicants,” a brief filed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) states.


Asian-American supporters of the UT policy point out that the bulk of students admitted under the holistic criteria are Asian-Americans and whites.

In 2011, 60 percent of incoming freshmen admitted based on the holistic criteria rather than the top 10 percent rule were white and 16 percent were Asian-American.

By comparison, 10 percent were Hispanic and 3 percent were African American, according to UT enrollment statistics.

“It seems to me that the system works,” said Madeline Y. Hsu, director of the Center for Asian American Studies at UT-Austin.

The lawsuit stems from the fact that Fisher was not admitted to UT in 2008 and was instead forced to attend LSU. I can’t honestly say that I see such a fate as being genuinely injurious to her, but we’ll have to leave that up to the Supremes. The “holistic” policy mentioned came about as a result of the last lawsuit, and it seems like a reasonable approach to me, one that I daresay is employed by numerous private universities. We’ll see what SCOTUS thinks.

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4 Responses to The UT admissions lawsuit

  1. Mainstream says:

    My cynical impression is that these “holistic” approaches are just a subterfuge to continue to engage in the race-based decisionmaking which was prohibited by the Hopwood ruling.

  2. Bill K says:

    My daughter was admitted to UT because of a holistic review of her qualifications. Our family is white and middle class. She was in the top 25% of her class at Bellaire, but not in the top 10%, which required, if I recall correctly of GPA of over 4.5 out of 4.0. Hers was around 4.1, lots of AP classes, good ACT, lots of extra curiculars with leadership roles. She applied to the college of fine arts, which reviews applicants based on their skills, in her case acting and dancing. Contrary to “Mainstreams” cynicism, most of the holistic admits are white and Asian.

  3. Mainstream says:

    I realize all politics is local, but the admission of one deserving student irrespective of race, does not preclude that others are being passed over because of their race. I think Ms. Fisher has a strong case.

  4. Bill K says:

    I not sure how strong Ms Fisher’s case is. As I stated above my daughter had a GPA of 4.1/4.0 and an ACT of 29 which correlates to an SAT of about 1300/1600 plus numerous AP classes and extracurriculars. . Ms Fisher on the other hand had a GPA of 3.59/4.0 and an SAT of 1180/1600. From what I can recall, she also took few AP classes and she didn’t have many extracurricular activities. It was the top 10% rule that kept Ms Fisher out of UT. 76% of the holistic admits are white or Asian. The holistic review is purposed to get deserving students who are bumped by the 10% rule, now top 8% rule, admitted to UT. Sometimes you just need to realize you aren’t good enough instead of filing a law suit.

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