Fisher v. University of Texas: Update

It’s been more than a year since the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas. If you’ve been following the story, you already know that ruling was a cliffhanger, more like the middle of a story than the end. Instead of announcing a final, unassailable decision, the Court made an unusual choice. The justices sent the case back to a lower court, ordering the 5th Circuit to take another look at the arguments and the facts.

On Tuesday afternoon, the 5th Circuit announced its decision, a 2-1 ruling that upholds the current system of admissionsat The University of Texas. That tells us how this chapter of the Fisher story ends. But we also know that the story continues – perhaps with a new appeal to the Supreme Court, and almost certainly with future lawsuits by other plaintiffs against other schools.

If you haven’t been following the case closely, here’s what you need to know.  In 2008, a young woman named Abigail Fisher brought a lawsuit challenging the use of race in undergraduate admissions at The University of Texas. At the time,Fisher v. University of Texas was the latest in a long line of cases examining the use of race in university admissions – in California, in Michigan, and nationwide. It was also the third major case looking at the role of race and admissions at UT. Fisher’s case moved quickly through the district court, then reached the 5th Circuit; both upheld the university’s admissions policies. Fisher appealed to the US Supreme Court, which took the case and heard oral arguments in the fall of 2012.

In May of last year, KLRU aired a documentary called Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education, an award-winning project that was co-produced by Villita Media and directed by Lynn Boswell. Our goal was to provide clear and unbiased context for the Fisher case by exploring the history of race and admissions at The University of Texas, and by examining the debate about race in admissions nationwide. Less than a month after our initial broadcast, the Supreme Court announced its decision in Fisher. Remanding the case to a lower court sent a clear signal that Fisher was not yet over, and a strong message that this story is one that will remain important for a long time to come.

In the year since Admissions on Trial first ran, this story has continued to develop rapidly. The Supreme Court upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action at state universities, which had been passed by voters as a constitutional amendment. Edward Blum and the Project on Fair Representation – backers of Abigail Fisher’s suit – have begun seeking plaintiffs to challenge admissions at three more universities. And people across the nation have continued to talk about many of the hottest hot-button questions surrounding higher education, including defining equality of access, ensuring that students who enroll in college graduate, and figuring out how students who are accepted to college can afford to attend.

These questions impact a wide variety of people: applicants and admissions officers; students and their parents; activists and university administrators; employers and society as a whole. People with a wide range of opinions have told us they believe questions about the role of race in admissions matter so much simply because education matters so much – as a door to opportunity and a foundation for life-long success. Fairness, we have been told, is crucial. The difference comes because the definition of that fairness can vary so widely.

KLRU plans to examine this latest development in the Fisher case with an updated documentary – a look at recent events and an exploration of what’s likely to come next as the debate about race-conscious admissions evolves. The project will include a website and lesson plans to expand the project’s impact and reach. We hope you’ll join us as we continue our work on this important topic.

Fisher v. University of Texas Panel Discussion 6/25

Please join KLRU for an important discussion on race and college admissions.

Date: Tuesday, June 25th
Time: 7 pm (Doors open at 6:45 pm)
Location: KLRU’s Studio 6A
RSVP: Event is free but RSVP is required. Please RSVP here

The documentary Admissions On Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education provides background and context to help understand the case of Fisher v University of Texas– what’s being debated, why the case was brought and how universities currently use race in the admissions process.

On Tuesday, June 25th, Evan Smith will lead experts in a discussion revolving around the repercussions of Fisher v. Texas at the University of Texas and across the United States. Featured on the panel will be Justice Steven Wayne Smith. Smith represented Cheryl Hopwood in her successful suit against The University of Texas. Her case led to the Top 10% law and eliminated the use of race in admissions in the Fifth Circuit for nearly a decade. Other panelists include an admissions officer and law professor Gerald Torres, a leading figure in critical race theory.

The panel discussion will take place in KLRU studio 6A at 7pm. RSVP now

Admissions on Trial now online

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.

Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education 5/30

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Admissions on Trial: Seven Decades of Race and Higher Education, airing Thursday, May 30th at 9 pm and Sunday, June 2, at 1:30 pm, takes an in-depth look at the debate over how universities choose their students.

For many schools, race is a factor in that process – a “plus” that can help determine who is admitted, and who is rejected.  A Supreme Court case called Fisher v Texas could soon end the use of race in admissions nationwide.  Understanding that issue means understanding the admissions process, and the history behind it.  The story begins in 1946, when The University of Texas was closed to African-Americans.  It continues in the 1990s, when the use of race was banned, and into the past decade, when it returned.  The documentary also looks to the future, where lessons learned at The University of Texas could serve as a model for race-blind admissions nationwide.

Hear from activists, lawyers, university leaders, students, admissions officials and people who fought segregation.  They discuss what diversity means, whether it matters, and how we should – and shouldn’t – be able to seek it.