The University of Texas at Austin announced on Monday that it will not change its admissions policy after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the affirmative action case to which the school was party.
The Supreme Court did not weigh in on the constitutionality of race-conscious admission policies, instead sending the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The circuit court will now have to re-evaluate Abigail Fisher's claim that UT-Austin discriminated against her as a white applicant when they rejected her from admission.
Following the decision, UT-Austin President Bill Powers said in a statement the "ruling will have no impact on admissions decisions we have already made or any immediate impact on our holistic admissions policies."
Kedra Ishop, vice provost and director of admissions at UT-Austin, told Inside Higher Ed the university had prepared for a number of policy adjustments, depending on how the court ruled, but now they will stay the course.
"What it does in terms of the admissions process is allow us to continue moving forward with the status quo, which was not really an expected outcome," Ishop said. "We kind of geared up to make shifts in one direction of another, but instead we'll continue with our admissions process how it stands and how it stood."
The university designed its policy to meet the strict scrutiny standard established under the 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger affirmative action case, Powers told Inside Higher Ed. In Grutter, the court upheld the constitutionality of including race as a factor in a college's admissions policy as a means to further the "compelling interest" of promoting class diversity.
"We will continue to use that framework, and we believe that the benefits of diversity certainly benefit all students here at the University of Texas and, indeed, all throughout higher education," Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at UT, said in a press conference Monday.
State law requires UT-Austin to admit automatically any applicants who qualify in the top of their high school class, regardless of ethnicity, but considers race among other factors to fill any remaining slots.
"It's great that the Supreme Court understands that diversity is important," Jennifer Tran, a UT student who has worked to defend the current policy, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "The university has consciously worked to make sure our policies balance the needs of diversity with the requirements of the law."
Student government president Horacio Villarreal told the Daily Texan that elected student leaders are waiting to hear more details from university officials in "plain English." However, Villarreal said the UT student government "will be backing whatever stance the university takes."
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