U.S. Supreme Court rules on Fisher v. University of Texas

This morning, the United States Supreme Court announced its decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, one of the most-watched cases of this term. The 4-3 decision ended an eight-year challenge to UT’s admissions policies. KLRU’s documentary Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education, directed by Lynn Boswell of Villita Media, examines the Fisher case in depth, tracing the history and evolution of the use of race in university admissions.

Today’s decision is a big win for UT. It’s also a big victory for supporters of affirmative action. The majority opinion not only supports the admissions system that was challenged in the Fisher case but also affirms the constitutionality of some limited consideration of race in university admissions nationwide.

The case began in 2008, when Abigail Fisher filed a suit after she was denied admission to The University of Texas. Fisher, who is white, argued that UT’s use of race in undergraduate admissions violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. The university defended its admissions system, arguing that it was narrowly tailored, necessary to achieve meaningful diversity and in line with decades of Supreme Court precedent.

The Court’s decision in her case is not a wholesale endorsement of affirmative action without limits. Rather, it supports the use of race in university admissions within narrow boundaries, and only after race-neutral measures have failed to achieve diversity. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of UT’s Top 10% Rule. It also confined its support of UT’s use of race to the system in place at the time Fisher applied for admission.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority, offered support for UT’s argument that diversity is a “compelling interest” permitted under earlier rulings to create “an ‘academic environment’ that offers a ‘robust exchange of ideas, exposure to differing cultures, preparation for the challenges of an increasingly diverse work­ force, and acquisition of competencies required of future leaders.’”

His opinion emphasized universities’ need to balance diversity and equal treatment. He also looked to a 1950 case called Sweatt v. Painter – another focus of KLRU’s Admissions on Trial documentary — which integrated graduate schools at The University of Texas.

A university is in large part defined by those intangible “qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness.” Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U. S. 629, 634 (1950). Considerable deference is owed to a university in defining those intangible characteristics, like student body diversity, that are central to its identity and educational mission. But still, it remains an enduring challenge to our Nation’s education system to reconcile the pursuit of diversity with the constitutional promise of equal treatment and dignity.

Kennedy went on to say that the university must continue to evaluate its use of race in admissions – that the Court’s support for the use of race in 2008 does not mean that the system will remain constitutional into the future. His message is that the opinion applies to a specific system, at a specific university, at a specific point in time.

The University of Texas at Austin has a special opportunity to learn and to teach. The University now has at its disposal valuable data about the manner in which different approaches to admissions may foster diversity or instead dilute it. The University must continue to use this data to scrutinize the fairness of its admissions program; to assess whether changing demographics have undermined the need for a race-conscious policy; and to identify the effects, both positive and negative, of the affirmative-action measures it deems necessary.

The Court’s affirmance of the University’s admissions policy today does not necessarily mean the University may rely on that same policy without refinement. It is the University’s ongoing obligation to engage in constant deliberation and continued reflection regarding its admissions policies.

The ruling surprised many who have been watching this case over the years. Justice Kennedy was widely seen as the swing vote in this case – a justice who has supported the concept of affirmative action in the past, yet never voted to uphold any specific affirmative action system that considered race. Seven justices voted in the Fisher case. Ginsberg, Sotomayor and Breyer joined Kennedy’s majority opinion. Alito, Roberts and Thomas dissented. Kagan was recused, because she worked on the case as solicitor general.

In a 50-page dissent, Justice Samuel Alito called the majority’s decision “remarkably wrong” and attacked both the facts and the arguments presented by The University of Texas. According to the dissent, The University of Texas failed in many ways to meet its obligations under the Constitution.

UT’s race-conscious admissions program cannot satisfy strict scrutiny. UT says that the program furthers its interest in the educational benefits of diversity, but it has failed to define that interest with any clarity or to demonstrate that its program is narrowly tailored to achieve that or any other particular interest. By accepting UT’s rationales as sufficient to meet its burden, the majority licenses UT’s perverse assumptions about different groups of minority students—the precise assumptions strict scrutiny is supposed to stamp out.

Abigail Fisher’s case was argued at the Supreme Court in December – the second time the Court heard her case. The first ruling came in May 2013, and returned the case to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals without a ruling on the details of the case. The opinion issued today ends an unusually long journey through the courts.

In an email to university employees this morning and a statement on the university’s website, UT President Gregory Fenves celebrated the ruling.

Dear UT Community,
This morning, the United States Supreme Court ruled in our favor in the case of Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, affirming the university’s right to continue using race and ethnicity as one factor in our holistic admissions process.
I am thrilled and gratified by today’s ruling that recognizes the constitutionality of the university’s admissions policy. The court has affirmed UT’s efforts to develop a diverse student body that brings with it educational benefits for all students. Our pursuit of excellence is grounded in the university’s public mission to provide the highest quality education for every student. Diversity is essential to carry out that mission. The educational benefits of diversity for all students enhance The University of Texas at Austin, the higher education community, and the nation.
As I said when the Supreme Court reviewed this case last December, race continues to matter in American life. It affects individuals and communities. We must make sure all of our students are able to excel in the wider world when they leave campus — educating them in an environment as diverse as the United States is one of the most effective ways to do so.
Gregory L. Fenves

In statement issued by the Project on Fair Representation, a not-for-profit legal foundation that supported Fisher’s case, both Abigail Fisher and the group’s president expressed disappointment with the ruling.

Abigail Fisher said, “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled that students applying to the Univ. of Texas can be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity. I hope that the nation will one day move beyond affirmative action.”

Edward Blum, president of the Project on Fair Representation, said, “Racial classifications and preferences are one of the most polarizing policies in America today. As long as universities like the Univ. of Texas continue to treat applicants differently by race and ethnicity, the social fabric that holds us together as a nation will be weakened. Today’s decision is a sad step backward for the original, colorblind principles to our civil rights laws.”

Blum concluded, “This opinion is at odds with the very principles that were articulated just two years ago in the first Fisher case. What this opinion lacks in legal reasoning, it made up in contradictions.”

While today’s decision marks the end of the Fisher case, it does not end the debate about race and university admissions. Edward Blum’s group is backing two new cases that challenge the use of race in university admissions – one against Harvard and a second against the The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Both were brought by a group called Students for Fair Admissions, and both allege unconstitutional discrimination against Asian and Asian-American students. Both complaints argue that race becomes a “defining feature” of those students’ applications, creating a bar for admission that’s far higher than it is for students from other ethnic groups. The Harvard case alleges a system that is effectively a quota, similar to quotas on Jewish students in the past, that places a ceiling on the number of Asian and Asian-American students admitted. Those cases have been largely on hold for months, awaiting a decision in Fisher. If they are allowed to move forward, they could become the next major challenge to the use of race in admissions. Stay tuned.

Texas Tribune wins Murrow Award for God and Governing

The Texas Tribune has won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for the video news series God and Governing from the Radio Television Digital News Association. Read more about the award and project from Tribune editor-in-chief Emily Ramshow on the the tribune’s website.

You can watch the program on KLRU Thursday, June 23rd at 7:30 pm or Tuesday, June 28th at 10:30 pm. You can also watch online anytime!

Austin Revealed: Coach Robinson

Did you know that #42 Jackie Robinson coached BASKETBALL in Austin? Robinson spent a year at Huston-Tilloston University as a coach an also served on the school’s board for many years.  Learn how Robinson ended up in Austin and hear from one of the players Robinson coached.

Our video features:
Roland Harden, who played for Robinson the year that he coached.  Harden likes to say he never formally played basketball before college; he played ‘street ball,’ playing pickup games and with local groups.  Harden credits Robinson for his success in life — the basketball scholarship Robinson offered Harden allowed him to stay in school and become an educator.  He still lives in east Austin.

LaToya Devezin, who is the African American Community Archivist for the Austin History Center and a self-professed baseball fan.

For more historical background, here is a clip from Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson documentary on Robinson’s court martial from Camp Hood.

Science Night 6/1

This week, Science Night features back-to-back episodes of Genius By Stephen Hawking!

Genius By Stephen Hawking What Are We? at 8 pm
Join Stephen Hawking as he challenges three ordinary people to find out what we really are. Self-assembling machines, light-up bacteria and the world’s first physical demonstration of evolution in action conspire to revolutionize their view of life.

Genius By Stephen Hawking Where Are We? at 9 pm
Join renowned scientist Stephen Hawking as he challenges three ordinary people to think like a genius. Can they measure the earth, the solar system and even the universe – and find our true place in the cosmos?

Highlights May 29 – June 4

KLRU Highlights

Join co-hosts Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna for National Memorial Day Concert at Sunday at 7 pm and 8:30 pm and Monday at 10:30 pm, a night of remembrance honoring the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

Ted Talks War And Peace at 8 pm Monday joins those who have experienced war-fighters, journalists, psychologists and more to learn how it affects everyone.

At a first-of-its-kind PTSD treatment center in California, follow Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families on their paths to recovery as they attempt to make peace with their pasts on POV Of Men and War at 9 pm Monday.

Investigate a re-enactor’s Texas roots; learn about Andersonville prison and find out if a black man’s ancestors fought for the Confederacy on Genealogy Roadshow at 7 pm Tuesday.

With law enforcement cracking down, Frontline The Fantasy Sports Gamble at 9 pm Tuesday traces the growth of these booming businesses and goes inside their operations at home and abroad.

Follow the historic rescue of Hubble—the space telescope that unveiled the cosmos on Nova Invisible Universe Revealed at 7 pm Wednesday.

Genius By Stephen Hawking takes on What We Are? and Where Are We? in back-to-back episodes starting at 8 pm Wednesday.

Actor Bryan Cranston talks about his latest project on Overheard with Evan Smith at 7 pm Thursday.

Families are often the primary mental health care providers. In these rich portraits on Stories of the Mind at 7:30 pm Thursday looks at the lives of families as they help loved ones and each other to manage their challenges.

Join Carol Burnett for her personally selected favorite moments from her long-running comedy series at 8 p Friday.

Grow gorgeous inside with terrariums. Outside, a family turned lawn into a patio pond living room on Central Texas Gardener at noon Saturday.

In the Studio: Wendy Davis tapes Overheard 5/31


Please join KLRU’s Overheard with Evan Smith for an interview with Senator Wendy Davis.

Date: Tuesday, May 31
Time: 10:15am (Doors at 9:45am)
Location: KLRU’s Studio 6A (map)
RSVP: The event is free but an RSVP is required. RSVP Now
Entrance is based upon capacity.

photo3662Wendy Davis is a former Democratic State Senator from Fort Worth, Texas. Davis stepped into the national spotlight during her 11-hour filibuster in the summer of 2013. She spoke out in an effort to defeat a controversial abortion bill. In 2014, Davis ran for the Governor of Texas. Today, she still fights for gender equality. Davis’ new non-profit organization Deeds Not Words launches this month. The organization is an online network that connects millennial women to resources that help fight gender inequality.

West Austin Studio Tour May 14-15 & 21-22

Big Medium’s West Austin Studio Tour (West) is a free, annual, self-guided art event spanning across two weekends in May. West provides opportunities for the public to meet the makers: the local artists and artisans who drive Austin’s vibrant creative culture. Get more details

In its 5th edition, West features 205 Artist Studios, 53 Galleries, 62 Temporary Exhibitions, 4 Happenings, and 12 Partner Programs. This website serves as an overview of tour stops and a schedule of events. It is intended to help tour-goers hand-pick their West experiences, particularly while using mobile devices. The West mobile website is a free online companion to the West catalog.

KLRU is proud to be a media partner for the West Austin Studio Tour 2016.

Highlights May 22-28

KLRU Highlights

Nonnatus House tries to cope with a tragedy and there’s joy all around at a wedding reception on Call the Midwife at 7 pm Sunday.

With his memory failing, Wallander draws on primal instincts to crack a decades-old submarine mystery on Wallander on Masterpiece at 8 pm Sunday.

POV The Return at 9 pm Monday explores the ramifications when California amended its “Three Strikes” law, shortening the sentences of thousands of “lifers.”

Allison Orr finds the poetry of motion in unusual places and uses non-traditional choreography to celebrate everyday life. For nearly two years Orr has been shadowing and observing technicians, linemen and machines at a power company on Arts In Context Power Up at 10:30 pm Monday.

Follow genealogists as they trace stories about Pocahontas, a Cuban grandfather’s secret past, the impact of WWII on a Filipino family on Genealogy Roadshow at 7 pm Tuesday.

Join Stephen Hawking on Genius at 8 pm Wednesday as he sets three ordinary people a truly mind-bending challenge: Can they work out why they exist at all?

Margaret Atwood, award-­winning author of more than 40 volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and nonfiction, talks about storytelling on Overheard with Evan Smith at 7 pm Thursday.

Sleep deprivation affects everything, from memory to mood to decision making.

In our 36hour No Sleep Challenge, researchers track 4 participants to see just how vital sleep is to your mental health on Stories of the Mind at 7:30 pm Thursday.

Chet heads to the panhandle where he finds Caprock Canyon State Park which is full of beautiful views, horseback riding, and the Official State Bison Herd of Texas on The Daytripper at 8:30 pm Thursday.

Discover the story behind the pioneering outlaw country music supergroup that featured Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson on The Highwaymen: American Masters at 8 pm Friday.

Enjoy an all-star tribute to singer and songwriter Willie Nelson, the 2015 recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song Friday at 9 pm.

Style up with indoor succulents as living decor and meet Army base families uniting around gardens on Central Texas Gardener at noon Saturday.

Revel in the best performances from the 2015 Americana Music Association Honors & Awards ceremony at 7pm Saturday.

Highlights May 15-21

KLRU Highlights

Witness Dr. Turner’s excitement about the contraceptive pill, Patsy’s struggles to help a transient woman determined to avoid the maternity home on Call the Midwife at 7 pm Sunday.

A knife-slashed corpse takes Wallander on a chase for the victim’s missing daughter. Increasingly forgetful, he breaks a cardinal rule of policing on Wallander at 8 pm Sunday.

Josie takes on a new role and Whiteleys’ troubles lead Jimmy and Mr. Crabb to take a big risk on Mr Selfridge at 9:30 pm Sunday.

Meet street recyclers who fight to survive in one of the poorest neighborhoods of Oakland, California on Independent Lens at 9 pm Monday.

‘The World Before Her’ is a tale of two Indias: In one, a small-town girl competes in the Miss India pageant. In the other, a militant woman leads a fundamentalist Hindu camp for girls. Watch on POV Monday at 10 pm.

Trace a woman’s connection to a Native-American code talker and more on Genealogy Roadshow in Albuquerque Tuesday at 7 pm.

Join renowned scientist Stephen Hawking as he challenges three ordinary people to think like a genius. Back-to-back episodes of Genius By Stephen Hawking air at 7 pm and 8 pm Wednesday.

Kara Swisher, Executive Editor of Re/code, Host of the Re/code Decode podcast, talks about technology on Overheard with Evan Smith at 7 pm Thursday.

Highly personal stories exploring suicide, from a family recovering from a son’s suicide, to five women who choose to live on Stories of the Mind at 7:30 pm Thursday. Then at 8 pm, three people in different times of their lives use different tactics to manage their anxiety, the most common type of mental health disorder for Americans.

The best of Austin and British Invasion musicians perform in celebration of the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians on All ATX: British Invasion at 8 pm Friday. Performances include Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Zombies, Alejandro Escovedo, Ian McLagan, Ruthie Foster, Shinyribs, Van Wilks, Malford Milligan, Guy Forsyth, Monte Montgomery, Shawn Sahm, Erin Ivey, Hector Ward, and the All ATX band.

The best of Austin and Texas musicians perform classic psychedelic songs on All ATX: Austin Gets Psychedelic at 9 pm Friday. Featuring Bubble Puppy, The Black Angels, Hayes Carll, Patrice Pike, Ian Moore, David Grissom, Gina Chavez, Max Frost, Israel Nash, The Bright Light Social Hour and more.

Refresh yourself and wildlife with water designs from ponds and fountains, even in small spaces on Central Texas Gardener at noon Saturday.