Houstonians Weigh In On Supreme Court Case <i>Fisher v. UT</i>

College professor Lydia Tiede has her students debate things like affirmative action in her political science class. For her, diversity isn’t an abstract concept. She sees it firsthand among her students at the University of Houston.

“I have older students, students that work, students with families, students that have just gotten out of the military or served – huge diversity”

She also sees the benefits of that diversity. It makes the classroom debate more interesting.

I get individuals from completely different backgrounds saying things and then other students, you can tell they’re listening, and often time changing their view or saying something else. And it’s the fact that you’ve got the different backgrounds. They’re not all saying the same thing.”

Diversity of college students is one of the key issues in the Fisher case before the Supreme Court.

“It’s this idea of how diverse do we want our institutions?”

Her own institution, the University of Houston, is fairly diverse in terms of higher education.

About a third of undergraduate students are white. A quarter are Hispanic. About 10 percent are black.

Recent UH graduate Angela So falls into another group — Asian American. It’s a group, she says, that doesn’t really benefit when colleges consider race.

“When you talk about affirmative action, it tends to mostly be conversations about Hispanic and African American students.”

She says Asians get grouped with white students, even though her own background is different from many of her white peers.

Her parents are from Cambodia. She learned English in school, not at home. She still thinks colleges should consider race — with a caveat.

“But I don’t think it’s necessarily hopefully increasing diversity in terms of numbers, but, you know, what experiences does this person bring.”

The University of Texas achieves diversity in two ways.

The first is the state’s Top 10 percent plan. Since 1997, the top graduating seniors at high schools across Texas get admitted automatically to public universities.

For the remaining seats, admissions officers do consider race. Lawyers for UT say it’s just a factor of a factor.

Colleges around the country are watching to see what the Supreme Court decides.

Charles “Rocky” Rhodes teaches at South Texas College of Law here in Houston. Here’s his personal prediction.

“The court will probably strike down the University of Texas program, as it’s currently constituted, saying there is no need to consider race again after its use in the Top Ten Percent Plan.”

The Supreme Court is expected to release its ruling before the end of the month.

This story was informed by sources in KUHF's Public Insight Network ®. To become a news source for KUHF, go to www.kuhf.org/pin.

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