Thursday, April 16, 2009

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Brief in Challenge to Use of Race in University Enrollment

On Monday, April 13th, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) filed a friend of the court brief in federal district court in Austin, Texas in the case of Fisher v. Texas. This case represents the first federal challenge to the use of race in a university admissions process since the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger.

The challenge was launched in 2008 by two white students who were denied entry to the University of Texas at Austin (UT). UT admits students through two separate policies. Most students are admitted under the Top Ten Percent Plan, which guarantees admission to UT to all Texas students in the top ten percent of their high school class. The remainder of students are admitted under a holistic admissions process that considers race as one of many factors in a student's application file. Plaintiffs argue that the Top Ten Percent Plan generates a sufficient number of minority students on campus, and that UT should be prohibited from considering race as a factor in its holistic admissions process.

The brief, filed on behalf of LDF, the Black Student Alliance at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and several African American students who are enrolled or who would like to enroll at UT in the future, emphasized that the percentage of African American students on the UT campus remained very low in the years before UT began considering race in its admissions process. As a result, UT students did not receive the educational benefits of diversity, including enriched classroom discussion, understanding of people of different backgrounds, and preparation for work and leadership in a diverse society – all of which are vitally important to our Nation's future.

Noted LDF President and Director-Counsel John Payton, "We believe that when the consideration of race was taken out of the equation, all students were deprived of the important learning and life opportunities that come from exposure to people with viewpoints and backgrounds different than ones own. It is our hope that the court will allow UT to continue its important effort to create a campus where the benefits of racial diversity flourish, and where the isolation that African American students have experienced in the past comes to an end."

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