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Tag Archives: Affirmative Action
On Thursday, in a rather surprising turn of events, the Supreme Court upheld the admission policy of the University of Texas at Austin against a complaint that it unconstitutionally favored African-Americans. This decision is surprising both because of the outcome, but also because of who wrote the opinion.
The basics of admission at UT is that the first cut of admissions comes from the “top 10%” program. If you go to high school in Texas and finish in the top 10% of your school and want to go to UT, you are automatically accepted (actually due to the cap on the number of admissions under this program, it is now closer to a top 7% program). This part of the admissions process fills about 75% of the slots. If you are home schooled, or out-of-state, or finish outside the top ten percent (whether that is 4th out of a graduation class of 30 or 150th out of a graduating class of 160), you have to compete based on a combination of your academic index (your GPA plus SAT score) and your “personal achievement index” (a score based on the admission essay, extracurricular activities, demonstrated leadership, and other factors with race being one of the other factors). Because race can impact the personal achievement factor, a white student who did not qualify under the top 10% program challenged her failure to make it under this second admissions process, claiming that it violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.
While the Supreme Court does not have a hard and fast rule on when it recesses for the summer, traditionally the Supreme Court tries to issue opinions in all the outstanding cases before July 4. As a result, the last part of June typically sees the media remembering that we have a Supreme Court as major decisions pour out of the court in a flood during this time of year. It’s not that the Justices intentionally save the major cases until the end, but rather that these cases are the ones that are most likely to go back and forth with drafts and counter-drafts until the deadline for resolving the cases hits.
This year, there are thirteen cases left to be decided. The Supreme Court has actually been making decent progress over the past month — having gone to two opinion days per week two weeks ago and issuing eleven opinions over the past two weeks. While the Supreme Court will not announce additional opinion days for this week until after issuing opinions on Monday, it is likely that there will be at least one more opinion day (and maybe two more opinion days) later this week. Of the remaining thirteen cases, three or four of them have major political implications.
When people think about key dates in the Supreme Court calendar, the day that most comes to mind is the First Monday in October (the official start of the annual term) — probably because it is the only date that is set in stone. The first argument day of each term is always the first Monday in October. There are other key points in the term, but they float a bit. One of those floating dates is the Monday after the last January argument. That date (which was earlier this week) is key because of the effective time table created by the Supreme Court’s rules. Under those rules, barring emergencies required rushed briefing and argument (United States vs. Nixon, Bush vs. Gore), the soonest that a case can be argued is approximately three months after the Supreme Court decides to grant full argument on a case. Because the last argument session is always in late April/Early May, any case accepted for argument after January will not be heard before the next term begins in October. That makes this point of the year the first time that it is possible to say with absolute certainty what cases will be heard and decided by June. With this being an election year, the politically explosive cases on the Supreme Court’s argument calendars are even more explosive.
The Supremes have agreed to rehear Fisher v Texas in the upcoming term. The version you’ll hear is that Abigail Fisher sued the University of Texas, Austin on the grounds that she was refused entry because she was white, thus a reverse-discrimination claim. The larger issue is race-based admissions, or affirmative action.
Actually, that’s not what this case is about, not even close. Abigail Fisher is a cute, young white woman chosen to be the face of a suit paid for by Edward Blum, who’d been looking for someone like Fisher for a number of years.
Abigail Fisher didn’t get into UT-Austin NOT because of the colour of her skin, but because her grades weren’t good enough. She ended up at the University of Louisiana, graduated, is gainfully employed and all she really wants is the hundred dollars she spent on application fees. Full story after the jump.