Oct. 26, 2015
Dear UT Community,
This week, the university filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin that reiterates our vision for the educational benefits of assembling a diverse student body. We argue in the brief that our admissions process to assemble a diverse student body is constitutional and consistent with Supreme Court prior rulings.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized that universities have a compelling interest in seeking the educational benefits that come from a student body that is diverse in myriad ways. Exposure to such diversity — in our students’ backgrounds, experiences and beliefs — prepares our graduates to lead in an increasingly diverse society.
As the leaders of Fortune 100 companies wrote to the Court in 2012, “the conscious pursuit of diversity in the admissions decisions of institutions of higher education – including diversity based upon race, religion, culture, economic background, and other factors – is a compelling state interest.” And importantly, “… The only means of obtaining a properly qualified group of employees is through diversity in institutions of higher education…”
The Court has previously ruled that universities may foster such diversity by considering an applicant’s race and ethnicity as one factor in modest and individualized ways. Our admission process was carefully designed to comply with these requirements. In addition to reviewing applicants’ academic records, we look at a host of other factors that give insight into who an applicant is and what he or she might add to the educational environment on campus. These include their socioeconomic backgrounds, extracurricular activities, hardships they may have overcome, and special talents, as well as race and ethnicity.
Under state law, three-quarters of our freshman class is reserved for students who finished near the top of their class in Texas public high schools. The remaining students are admitted under a holistic review process. This hybrid admissions process allows UT to assemble a class that brings the educational benefits of diversity in an array of qualities that are important to the university.
During the past six years, multiple courts have ruled in our favor and upheld the use of race and ethnicity as one factor in admissions. In 2013, the Supreme Court remanded the case for further consideration. In 2014, the Fifth Circuit upheld the policy again. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to review the case for a second time.
I will travel to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 9 to hear the oral arguments at the Supreme Court. I look forward to being joined there by students, alumni and supporters who have helped UT in its continuing quest to support diversity in higher education for the university, the state and the nation.
Gregory L. Fenves, President
The University of Texas at Austin