5th Cir Won't Review UT Affirmative Action College Admissions

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on June 22, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In an effort to boost minority enrollment at their school, the University of Texas should have realized that they would likely be facing legal challenges to their affirmative action college admissions programs. After all, an affirmative action college admissions process could easily be criticized and attacked by students who were denied admission, as was the case in several of other affirmative action suits that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

One case made it all the way to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal, who refused to consider an appeal on the lower court decision upholding the use of race as a factor in admissions. On a 9-7 vote of the full Fifth Circuit, the appeal was rejected.

Let's have a quick look at the facts of the case:

In 2004, the University of Texas started including seven special circumstances as factors for admissions when considering in-state applicants, reports Courthouse News. The key thing to note here is that Texas already had a 1997 law called the "Top Ten Percent" law that guaranteed any Texas high school student in the top ten percent of his or her class admission to a state university.

But in 2004, after looking at the diversity of its population, UT decided to include additional criteria in order to admit those who were excluded from the "Top Ten Percent" law. Two of these criteria were race and socio-economic status.

So, when two aspiring University of Texas students did not get admitted, they sued, citing racial discrimination and the Fourteenth Amendment. They didn't challenge the "Top Ten Percent" law; they only challenged the consideration of race in admissions.

The two students, Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, sued in 2008. Their lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge, in light of the Grutter v. Bollinger case, famously known as the University of Michigan Law School case.

Not all on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals applauded the decision, however. In a sharp dissent by Chief Judge Edith H. Jones, the majority was criticized for giving "total deference to University administrators."

The Wall Street Journal reports that the University of Texas is anticipating that the battle may inch on up to the U.S. Supreme Court, citing University officials as saying that the university is "in a good position to respond" if SCOTUS is on the itinerary.

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