The University of Texas filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court defending its use of affirmative action within its admissions criteria on Monday for Fisher v. University of Texas.
The school faces a lawsuit from Abigail Fisher, a caucasian student who claims she was not admitted to UT in 2008 because of her race.
The school argues that before the policy was adopted in 2005, UT's student body lacked diversity. African-Americans and Hispanics constituted only 21 percent of total population. Two years later, in 2007, the amount of enrolled African-American and Hispanic students increased to more than a quarter of the freshman class.
Bill Powers, president of UT at Austin, said in a video statement that the school has a "holistic admissions process" that "follows previous statements by the U.S. Supreme Court on how an admissions process meets our constitutional requirements."
Admissions at UT is typically straightforward. The large public institution uses the race-neutral "Top Ten Percent" plan, which accepts all applicants from the top ten percent of high schools in Texas. Fisher evidently just missed this initial cut-off and entered another pile where admissions are swayed by racial diversity.
Fisher attended Louisiana State University when she wasn't accepted.
The suit will reopen the discussion on affirmative action, which many thought was put to rest for at least 25 years after Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003. In this landmark case, the Supreme Court upheld a "flexible" consideration of race in admissions at public universities and colleges throughout the country.
The court has seen great changes since 2003, adding five more conservative Justices. The New York Times reported both supporters and opponents of affirmative action thought that the court's decision in February to hear the case could suggest a desire to erase affirmative action practices from universities' admissions policies.
Though the suit involves a public university, the decision is likely to affect private institutions as well because Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids racial discrimination in all programs receiving federal money.
The court will hear the oral arguments for Fisher v. University of Texas on October 10.