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Abigail Fisher vs. UT Austin — What Could Happen to Affirmative Action

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There is a case before the Supreme Court at the moment that is causing a lot of controversy. The issue of race, affirmative action in university application process, and who deserves to join the Longhorns are being argued. Could we see an improvement to the system or a step backward for affirmative action?

Abigail Noel Fisher and Rachel Multer Michalewicz were denied admittance to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. They are both white females claiming that their race is the reason they were not allowed into the Longhorn family. The case has made its way all the way to Washington and the Supreme Court. The case is based on a violation of The Fourteenth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause. But, is this really about race?

The university has a set admission policy and requirements. The basic rule is of the top ten percent of a class. Any Texan resident that is within the top ten percent of their graduating class is open to admittance to UT Austin. Beyond that there are certain factors that are considered. These factors include; talents, leadership qualities and family circumstances as well as race are reviewed for entry.

Fisher was below the top ten percent of her class, leaving her vulnerable to the other elements of her application. So was her race really the thing that held her back?

The University of Texas at Austin is diligent with their efforts to give opportunities of higher education to all sorts of students. A report from the university to the governor explains, “regardless of geography, race or ethnicity, or income, representatives from all parts of Texas society have not only a right to the state’s premier university education, but in attending, fulfill a profound social and economic need of the state: as they are lifted up by their university education, so the state is lifted as a whole.” They have been trying with best intentions to diversify their student body. “And just as all population segments need higher education, higher education needs all population segments,” says the university.  So what happens to all of the applicants that are not considered the diversifying factor?

The school almost admits that they have been looking to increase their diversity and are seemingly aiming for more Hispanics when they say, “our total Hispanic student population increased from 8,720 to 8,973, and although the percentage of the total student body that is Hispanic increased as well (17% to 17.5%), one statistic that caused concern this year was the decline of the Hispanic share of entering freshmen from Texas high schools.” But is this concern to recruit those from underrepresented demographics a bad thing?

The whole point of the Equal Protection Clause is to protect all people. It is important to give everyone a chance for a college education. Is this “search” for the underrepresented leaving out those seen to be in general very well represented? Are there students applying that have no chance because of their sex, race, or background?

One LSU student explains that he too was hoping to be accepted to UT Austin but, “Fisher stood a better chance than I did of being admitted because, despite our shared ethnicity, she is female and affirmative action would have worked in her favor.”  Samuel Alito, Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court asks, “If you have a [minority] applicant whose parents… put them in the top one per cent of earners in the country and both have graduate degrees, they deserve a leg up against, let’s say, an Asian or a white applicant whose parents are absolutely average in terms of education and income?” So, who is being left out and who is being let in?

I guess we will have to wait and hear what the Supreme Court decides for Fisher.

Personally, I believe that every student deserves a chance to improve themselves with a college education. If they have worked hard, volunteered time, spent more time in high school towards bettering themselves and the world, and in general behaved as the best they could be they should be able to go to the college of their choice. No matter the sex, color, background, or economic status; every student deserves a higher education.

 

 

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