UC President Mark Yudof and the UC Board of Regents, along with dozens of other universities across the nation, have filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the University of Texas in a court decision on affirmative action. In the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin, challenges have been made to include the use of race as a determining factor in public university admissions.
In 1996, the passage of Proposition 209 effectively banned affirmative action in public employment, government institutions and the California education system. Recent discussion in the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin has garnered support for greater accessibility to higher education. An amicus brief, also known as “friend of the court,” is filed when there is a strong, usually broad, interest in an aspect of a court decision. UC officials filed a brief which seeks to inform the court about its efforts to enroll a diverse student body under such circumstances, and noted that it has not been entirely successful.
“The facts tell us the educational and societal benefits from a diverse student body cannot be realized fully at the nation’s largest highly selective university system without the judicious use of tools that take race into account during undergraduate admissions decisions. Telling that story is the appropriate thing to do in the context of this legal case,” stated Yudof, in a UC Newsroom article.
In Texas, all students in the top 10 percent of their high-school classes are admitted to state universities. Students who are not part of the top 10 percent are admitted according to a different equation which includes race. This applied to Abigail Fisher, a high school senior at the time, who applied to the University of Texas-Austin in 2008 and was rejected. Her lawsuit claims that any consideration of race by a university in admissions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment.
“A person’s race shows nothing about the person’s character, willpower to succeed or how they think. Also, using race to determine someone’s acceptance is in itself racist… it should be the overall person that is evaluated,” said fourth-year UCR student Stuart Kluft. Kluft went on to state that although he does not believe that race or ethnicity should be included as a deciding factor in college admissions, the regents should be given the freedom to enact their own policies in regards to admissions criterias.
Other students, such as fourth-year UCR student Simone Blackwell, feel strongly that affirmative action should be considered to provide fair representation for minorities. “If you look at demographics within the workplace, it’s very disproportionate and it’s not because minorities aren’t applying or trying to get into the workplace or university… If you look at history and where the country is now in terms of demographics, that will probably give you all the answers that you need,” stated Blackwell.
The case of Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin will be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in October.