Debate Over Race and College Admissions Continues


The Supreme Court is set to hear a case for the second time concerning the affirmative action policy at the University of Texas, which uses race as one the multiple factors in deciding upon its academic class.

Abigail Fisher believes she was denied admission to the school because she is white. The court had originally sent her case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in 2013 in order to let judges there have a closer look at the university's policy.

In the end, that court had sided with the university, citing their limited use of racial preferences. It is unknown if the Supreme Court had intended for that to have happened, and now it seems they will have the opportunity to decide whether or not to take on the case again.

Challenges to affirmative action policies at other schools, including Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, are also pending with the Supreme Court. Those were brought by the organization called Students for Fair Admissions.

Hearing the Texas case a second time comes as no surprise, as it took the justices over 8 months before they released their 7-1 ruling to move the case to a lower court when the case was first heard in October 2012.

"The Court of Appeals must assess whether the university has offered sufficient evidence that would prove that its admissions program is narrowly tailored to obtain the educational benefits of diversity," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the expansive majority, which included Justice Sonia Sotomayor, a product of affirmative action policies.

While the school historically accepts the top 10% of almost every high school class in the state, which does guarantee some racial diversity, the school looks at a range of other factors, including race, to round out each year's class, writes Richard Wolf for USA Today.

The appeals court upheld the school's policy for a second time in July. "To deny UT-Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience," the court's 2-1 majority said.

However, in her new petition, Fisher refers to that search as "an amorphous and unbounded pursuit."

"The court should grant the petition, strike down UT's unjustified use of race, and once again make clear that the Equal Protection Clause does not permit the use of racial preferences in admissions decisions where, as here, they are neither narrowly tailored nor necessary to meet a compelling, otherwise unsatisfied, educational interest," her lawyers said.

Meanwhile, Ann Lee, cofounder of HS2 Academy, assumes that racial bias will play a role in the college admissions process and has formed a company that counsels students to prepare them for discrimination. Counselors at the 10 centers throughout California offer help to prospective Asian American students in order for them to avoid looking like a "cookie-cutter Asian."

"Everyone is in orchestra and plays piano," Lee says. "Everyone plays tennis. Everyone wants to be a doctor, and write about immigrating to America. You can't get in with these cliche applications."

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