High Court Refuses to Hear Affirmative Action Case
UT president says university will continue to search for ways to serve all of the state’s population
University of Texas officials say they are disappointed by the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear their challenge to the Hopwood decision, but vowed to continue “vigorous efforts to enroll students of all races.”
“At some point, the court will take a case involving these issues and will resolve them for the nation as a whole,” says university President Larry Faulkner. “For now, we will keep searching for creative and legal ways to serve all of the populations of Texas.”
By declining the school’s request to consider their case, the court let stand a 1996 order prohibiting any consideration of race for admissions to the university’s law school. The case stems from a 1992 lawsuit in which four White students sued after they were denied admission to the UT law school. The case is named after Cheryl Hopwood, one of the four students.
The students said they were denied admission because the school gave preferential treatment to less-qualified Hispanic and Black applicants. While parts of their argument were rejected, a federal judge found the university had an unconstitutional admissions policy. Later, former Attorney General Dan Morales interpreted the rulings to apply to scholarships and financial aid as well.
The UT system and most other state universities in Texas stopped using affirmative action for scholarships and financial aid. Many blamed the ruling for a subsequent drop in minority enrollment across the state.
Since then, universities have been able to boost minority enrollment through laws that grant automatic admission to the top 10 percent of high-school graduates.
Law school Dean William Powers says the school will continue to push for a diverse student body. The law school now considers a range of factors, including grades, test scores, work experience, military service, regional origin and past economic or social disadvantage.
“We will continue our vigorous attempts to enroll students of all races within the limits imposed by the courts,” Powers says.
Texas law professor Douglas Laycock says last month’s ruling should have little impact beyond the Texas border.
“Today’s order resolves nothing,” Laycock says, noting that in May, the Supreme Court upheld a decision allowing the use of race as a factor in admission to the University of Washington law school. (See Black Issues, June 21.)
A similar case from Michigan could reach the Supreme Court within a year.
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