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Federal Lawsuit Filed Over UT Race-based Admissions Policies


A legal group that fights racial preferences in schools filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the University of Texas at Austin, claiming its undergraduate admissions policies violate the Constitution and federal law.

The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Fair Representation. The plaintiff, Abigail Fisher, is from Richmond, a Houston suburb. She is a White student who finished in the top 12 percent of her high school class but was rejected for admission to UT-Austin.

The flagship campus for the University of Texas system reserved a record 81 percent of its fall admission offers this year to students guaranteed a spot on campus under the state’s top 10 percent law.

The automatic admissions law was adopted a decade ago after a federal appeals court decision made affirmative action illegal in Texas college admissions. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed universities to use race as one of many decision-making factors.

The university’s minority enrollment is higher now than any time in the decade since lawmakers enacted the top 10 percent law. UT-Austin had just over 37,000 undergraduate students in fall 2007. Of those, 6,700 were Hispanic and 1,700 Black.

The lawsuit argues that the Supreme Court’s ruling required universities to make a good-faith effort to improve diversity using race-neutral policies before resorting to racial preferences.

Patti Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs at UT, said officials would review the lawsuit, but the university is confident that all admissions policies are legal and comply with the Supreme Court ruling.

“Each year we are very fortunate to receive applications from thousands of very able high school seniors, but as with many universities around the country, we are limited in the number of applicants we can admit,” Ohlendorf said.

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