Sometime before June 30th, the US Supreme Court will issue a decision in a case called Fisher v. University of Texas – one of the most-watched cases of the term. Interest is high because the case addresses the role of race in university admissions, and has the potential to end affirmative action programs at universities nationwide.
Admissions On Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education provides background and context to help understand the Fisher case – what’s being debated, why the case was brought and how universities currently use race in the admissions process. Viewers learn about the Fisher case through interviews with key players at the heart of this debate. And they discover the deep roots of this story, beginning in 1946 – eight years before Brown v. Board of Education – when an early civil rights pioneer named Heman Sweatt began his fight to integrate graduate programs at The University of Texas and at other segregated schools across the South. Viewers will also trace the story from the 1940s through Fisher, learning about how the university slowly integrated, why the race-neutral Top 10% rule emerged here, why UT began considering race again and what the experience of university officials here might mean for other schools nationwide.
We interviewed activists, lawyers, students, university officials, admissions experts and people who remember segregation in Texas. We visit a tiny rural school, a Dallas school that began as an African-American school during Jim Crow, and a big suburban school where competition for grades is tough. We also get an inside look at the holistic review process, as an admissions official from Georgetown University walked us through some applications and discusses how he makes decisions about who to admit.
If you’re still interested in learning more, you can hear the oral arguments in Fisher at here, you can read the Fisher briefs and commentary at here, you can learn about admissions at The University of Texas at here, you can hear from Abigail Fisher on the Project on Fair Representation’s website here, you can learn about some other efforts to end government use of race here, you can see President Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 speech at Howard University here, you can see more film from the 1963 demonstrations in Austin here and you can learn more about Heman Sweatt’s case here and here.