The United States Supreme Court will be revisiting affirmative action this October in the case Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin).
On Aug. 13, University of California President Mark Yudof, alongside 10 University of California chancellors, submitted an amicus curiae brief, literally meaning “friend of the court brief,” to the Supreme Court in support of the University of Texas in Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin.
The plaintiff in the case, Abigail Fisher, graduated in the top 12 percent of her high school class and filed a lawsuit against the University after being denied acceptance, due to its selection of students not admitted under the Top Ten Percent Plan.
Under the Texas Top Ten Percent plan, an alleged race-neutral rule, students graduating in the top 10 percent of their respective high school classes are automatically admitted to the Texas State University system, Austin included. The plan aims to increase the diversity of the student body enrolling in Texas colleges and universities, according to the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA).
Fisher sued the UT Austin for allegedly violating her 14th Amendment rights by denying her equal protection of the law. The Brief for the Petitioner states that applicants less qualified than Fisher in the realm of academic achievements were admitted based on the consideration of race in admission decisions.
Though affirmative action is defined by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as one of the most effective outlets to aid injustices brought about by the country’s historic discrimination against women and people of color, others consider affirmative action a form of reverse discrimination — the discrimination of members in a majority group.
In a recent press release by the UC Newsroom, Yudof and chancellors cite specifically the University of California system’s efforts to encompass a diverse student body, despite constitutional prohibition against race-conscious admissions.
Yudof affirmed the University of California’s decision to support the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race in student admissions.
“Ours is a unique story that shines a light on the obstacles we face as we seek to enrich the UC educational experience through diversity,” Yudof said to the UC Newsroom. “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.”
UC Davis students stand both in support of and in opposition to the University of California’s decision to submit an amicus curiae brief.
“Though I can understand both sides of the argument, I wish UC Davis was more diverse, but I do not believe an applicant’s acceptance into a school should at all be based on race,” said fourth-year sociology major Lindsey Fling. “As an academic institution, acceptance should be determined by academic performance alone.”
Second-year nutritional sciences student Byron Tam reiterates Fling’s statement.
“I think college shouldn’t consider the race of an applicant. I believe those who work hard to earn a spot in college deserve being admitted. It is unfair to deserving students that schools admit less qualified applicants in an attempt to diversify the student population,” said Tam. “Every race has the potential to be at a level worthy of being accepted into college.”
Second-year exercise biology student Harjeet Singh Atwal, however, supports Yudof.
“I think that if a college only selects students without reviewing the student’s race, they will be damaging the educational environment because we learn from experiences and perspectives,” Atwal said. “Without diversity we will not have anything to teach future students. It helps destroy stereotyped preconceptions, help students think critically and enhance the communication skills that each student will use in a workplace.”
The Supreme Court justices will see the case on Oct. 10.
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