Education News

Houston Reacts To Supreme Court Fisher v. UT Affirmative Action Ruling

A majority of the justices on Thursday sided with the University of Texas and upheld its use of race in admissions. But it does not end the debate over the practice.

640px-Main_Building_at_The_University_of_Texas_at_Austin

Michael Olivas, a UH law professor and the interim president of the University of Houston Downtown, celebrated the Supreme Court decision in Fisher v. University of Texas.

“This is a very good day,” Olivas said. “It shows that there’s moral order restored in this universe.”

Olivas said Mexican-Americans, for example, are still vastly underrepresented in the state’s major universities.

The 4-3 ruling ends a years-long legal battle between Abigail Fisher, a white woman from Sugar Land, and the University of Texas at Austin.

“I hope this is a signal to other disgruntled, white, aggrieved plaintiffs that just because they didn’t get in and because they weren’t admissible, it doesn’t mean that they lost their seat to some less deserving person of color,” Olivas said.

The ruling upholds UT’s admissions program, which among other factors, considers the race and ethnicity of applicants.

“It’s only a factor of a factor of a factor of who gets into the university,” said Charles “Rocky” Rhodes, a professor at the Houston College of Law.

He said UT was able to provide evidence that Texas’ Top 10 Percent law wasn’t enough to ensure diversity in the school’s classrooms. The law mandates public colleges admit the top students from any of the state’s high schools.

Rhodes said since UT’s system is so unique, the ruling won’t act as a precedent in future affirmative action cases.

“But what it does do (is) show that the Supreme Court is not poised to strike down race-conscious admissions programs as long as those programs are supported by sufficient evidence of their necessity and need,” the professor said.

Rhodes added that it sends a message to public colleges to make sure they really study how and if race should be considered as part of their admissions policies.

The ruling does not end the debate over how schools achieve a diverse student body.

At the University of Houston’s Student Center, education major Bianca Ezumah said diversity is one of the reasons she chose UH. But she didn’t think race should be considered in admissions.

“I think you should admit people based off if you think they would excel at your university,” Ezumah said. “Or if you think they deserve the chance.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton criticized the ruling. In a statement, he said the opportunities at the University of Texas “should be available to all students based on their merit, not the color of their skin.”

State Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, chairs the Texas Senate Higher Education Committee. He said the decision confirms that UT’s admissions policy was designed to create diversity without discriminating against any group.

Share

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

More Information