U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled Monday that the university’s use of race and ethnicity as factors in admissions is constitutionally acceptable.
The lawsuit argues that a 2003 Supreme Court ruling, which allowed universities to use race as one of many factors in making admissions decisions, also required universities to make a good-faith effort to improve diversity using race-neutral policies before resorting to racial preferences.
Most of the university’s freshmen are admitted through a state law allowing automatic college admissions for students in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. Race and ethnicity are among several factors considered by the university for admissions outside the top 10 percent law.
The lawsuit was filed last year by two White students whose applications had been rejected. One of the plaintiffs, Abigail Fisher, a student from a Houston suburb, finished in the top 12 percent of her high school class but was rejected for admission to UT-Austin.
Edward Blum, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he would appeal the decision within the next couple of months.
“I was disappointed but it wasn’t a total surprise,” Blum said. “This is a complex piece of litigation.”
The ruling “reaffirms what the Supreme Court said in 2003 … that universities have a compelling interest in achieving student body diversity on their campuses,” said Holly Thomas, an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed a court brief in the case supporting the university’s admissions policy.
UT Vice Chancellor Barry Burgdorf told the Austin American-Statesman the ruling was “a complete vindication” of the school’s admission system.
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