Group Files Complaint Against UT Over Race-Conscious Admissions

AUSTIN,
Texas
A legal group that
fights against racial preferences in schools and workplaces has filed a
complaint with the U.S. Department of Education about the University of Texas
at Austin’s use of race in its undergraduate admissions process.

The
complaint filed Friday by the Washington-based Project on Fair Representation
accuses the university of violating a law that bars discrimination by
government agencies that receive federal funds.

About 70
percent of UT-Austin freshmen from Texas are automatically accepted under a
state law that guarantees top students a spot at the public university of their
choice. The rest of the class is selected through a holistic review process
that considers many factors, including the applicant’s race.

Edward Blum,
the group’s director, says that practice “is illegal, to say nothing of being
unfair and polarizing.”

“The U.S.
Department of Education needs to end this practice before the next round of
freshman applications is submitted,” he said in a statement.

Patti
Ohlendorf, UT-Austin’s vice president for legal affairs, says the university
will cooperate with the Education Department if it opens an investigation into
the complaint. But she says the school is confident that its policies are in
line with recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions about race-based admissions
decisions.

Education
Department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said he could not comment on the complaint
because no one in the department had seen it yet. The department’s civil rights
office receives about 5,000 discrimination complaints a year, he said.

The
automatic admissions law was adopted a decade ago, after a 5th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals decision made affirmative action illegal in Texas college
admissions. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that decision, allowing
universities to use race as one of many decision-making factors.

Blum 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. He says the top 10 percent law is effective enough to block
UT-Austin from using race-based admissions policies.

He says his
group may file a lawsuit if the department doesn’t make the university reverse
course.

A record
number of Black and Hispanic
students were enrolled at UT-Austin last fall, but UT officials have said they
don’t know whether the increase stemmed from the top 10 percent law or from
recruiting efforts aimed at predominantly Black and Hispanic high schools.

Hispanic students made up 15
percent of the student body, while Black students accounted for nearly 4
percent. White students accounted for 57 percent of the student body, while 14
percent were Asian. The rest of the students were American Indian, foreign or
did not report their ethnicity.

Despite the
progress, UT’s student body does not come close to mirroring the state
population. According to the Texas State Data Center, 48 percent of Texans are
White, 36 percent are Hispanic,
11 percent are Black and 5 percent are some other race.

– Associated Press

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