The United States Supreme Court on June 2013 issued a ruling on Fisher v. University of Texas (Santoro, n.p). Abigail Fisher the petitioner, from Texas, was disallowed admission to the institution at the Austin, to join class of 2008. Fisher sued the school arguing that this rejection was in violation of her right to equal protection as provided in the Fourth Amendment as she was rejected admission to the university at the expense of other students who had way less credentials (Santoro, n.p). Fisher maintained that the institution policy of admission cannot match the standards adopted from the Grutter v. Bollinger, a similar case that may have the set benchmark of admission policies where affirmative action is an issue. The university on the other hand maintained that their admission policies were streamlined in accordance to those required and upheld in the Grutter ruling. It argued that it uses a holistic process of admission, which considers the race of the applicant as a factor for admission, in the bid to create a diverse student body that embodies a national outlook where all races feel represented (Santoro, n.p). The Supreme Court was tasked with the burden of re-examining or upholding the Grutter requirement for an admission process. Their decision was critical as it hard far reaching implication for admission policies and the racial significance in schools all over American.
The facts of the case were hinged on the fact that University of Texas (UT) follows an admission policy that aims to maintain an equal and diverse student body (Levine, 167). Apart from the required 10% admission policy, UT Admits students within a framework of other factors like race, where the applicant must be of a certain race to get admitted despite their academic qualifications. They maintained that the 10% admission policy could not succinctly cater for a diverse student body since most students who make this threshold are from minority school (Levine, 168). However, according to Fisher, if the school did have concerns and interests with regards to maintaining an equal and diverse race student body in the institution, it could accomplish this from the 10% admission policy and without enforcing a race based admission policy. Fisher wanted the court to clarify the Grutter requirements or overrule them altogether.
In a 7-1 decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the need for diversity in the public education especially the higher education sector, and the importance of all public institutions within the states to maintain and promote it (Levine, 170). However, they returned the case back to the Circuit Court in New Orleans to re-examine whether the schools race admission policy met the strict measurse provided for in the Grutter case. The standards of narrow tailoring and necessity were among the top requirements of the Grutter case, and the Supreme Court wanted this court to establish whether this institution had adhered to these standards.
The courts decision signaled a historic shift in the race based affirmative action in the admission process in the higher education sector (Rostron, 37). It was the fourth time that a Supreme Court would rule on constitutionality of the race based admission policies. Pending the ruling it was felt that the court might overhaul the Grutter standards and remove the affirmative action in higher education admissions. In a twist of events, the court did change its position, but also increased the scrutiny on the race conscious admission policy (Rostron, 39). Now the court was interested not just in diversity but also in the nature with which these diverse students body was being promoted.
A new challenge arose in the public higher education sector. The diversity standards itself was under scrutiny (Rostron, 40). It meant that all universities in the state level using the race based admission policies needed to show and prove that they used these policies alone, and none other to help them attain the diverse student body. This challenge was significant as some universities claimed that race-neutral policies may be much better if an institution was to achieve the diversity goal (Rostron, 43). It will be up to the state universities to give evidences and prove that their specific policies in affirmative actions served them best and are the sole means by which they attained the diversity goals.
The Fisher case constitutes a broader aspect of race, and it could be a step towards healing the American race wound or in a twist of fate, confuse the post racial inequality discourse further. Overall, the decision is a wakeup call for scholars, educators and policy makers to carry on making compelling and rigorous debates concerning the race conscious affirmative action. To maintain diversity and equality in the public higher education, deliberate policies and frameworks have to be put in place, frameworks that do not only reflect diversity but also equity in representation of all the races in the State in question.
Levine, F. J., and A. N. Ancheta. 'The AERA Et Al. Amicus Brief in Fisher V. University Of Texas At Austin: Scientific Organizations Serving Society'. Educational Researcher 42.3 (2013): 166-171. Web.
Rostron, A. (2013). Affirmative action, Justice Kennedy, and the virtues of the middle ground.Northwestern University Law Review, 107(2), 10371044.
Santoro, T., and S.K. Wirth. 'Fisher V. University Of Texas at Austin (11-345)'. LII / Legal Information Institute. N.P., 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2015.
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