In a case that has bounced around the court system for six years — from the U.S. Supreme Court and back — a federal appeals court panel on Tuesday upheld the right of the University of Texas to consider race in admissions.
In the case, Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin, prospective student Abigail Fisher brought suit against the university alleging racial bias. A white student from Sugar Land, Fisher had a 3.59 GPA but was not in the top 10 percent of her graduating class. Since 1997, Texas students graduating in the top 10 percent of their high schools have been guaranteed admission to state universities.
"We remain committed to assembling a student body at the University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students," Powers said.
UT president Bill Powers praised the ramifications of the ruling in a statement to alumni. "We remain committed to assembling a student body at the University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students," Powers said.
The lawsuit reached the Supreme Court in 2012, and a year later justices ruled 7-1 to remand the case back to a lower court for further review. On Tuesday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of UT.
"It is equally settled that universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity," the ruling reads. "This interest is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts — the classic assertion of the humanities."
Fisher's attorney, Edward Blum of the Project on Fair Representation, told the Houston Chronicle that his client would appeal the ruling, which may eventually wind up before the Supreme Court again.
In a statement, Fisher said, "It is disappointing that the judges hearing my case are not following the Supreme Court's ruling last summer. I remain committed to continuing this lawsuit even if it means we appeal to the Supreme Court once again. It is a shame that for the last six years, hundreds of UT applicants were denied admission because of UT's racial and ethnic preferences."