UT ad­mis­sions op­po­nent launches new le­gal fight,

Alum­nus who lost U.S. high court rul­ing ar­gues race shouldn’t be fac­tor.

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ralph K.M. Hau­r­witz rhau­r­witz@states­man.com

A new round of lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing the con­sid­er­a­tion of race in ad­mis­sions at the Univer­sity of Texas is be­ing or­ga­nized by the same UT alum­nus who took a sim­i­lar case to the U.S. Supreme Court twice and lost.

This time, Edward Blum might have his sights set on the state courts of Texas rather than mak­ing an­other run at the fed­eral courts. The U.S. Supreme Court up­held UT’s race-con­scious ad­mis­sions pro­gram by a 4-3 vote in June.

Blum, a for­mer stock­bro­ker and one­time can­di­date for Congress, is pres­i­dent of Stu­dents for Fair Ad­mis­sions, a non­profit group that on Thurs­day be­gan invit­ing stu­dents who were re­jected by UT to pro­vide grades, test scores and a list of out­side ac­tiv­i­ties to help build a new le­gal case.

“A stu­dent’s race and eth­nic­ity should not be fac­tors that ei­ther harm or help that stu­dent to gain ad­mis­sion to a com­pet­i­tive univer­sity,” the group says on its web­site, stu­dents­for­fairad­mis­sions. org, which notes that its more than 20,000 mem­bers op­pose racial clas­si­fi­ca­tions and pref­er­ences in col­lege ad­mis­sions.

Asked why he wants to chal­lenge af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion in UT ad­mis­sions again when the na­tion’s high­est court has pro­nounced it con­sti­tu­tional in Fisher v. Univer­sity of Texas at Austin, Blum told the Amer­i­can-States­man: “The Supreme Court ruled that UT’s po­lices in 2008 were con­sti­tu­tional. How­ever, the court also noted that UT could not con­tinue those po­lices in­def­i­nitely and must con­tinue to re­view them with the goal of end­ing racial clas­si­fi­ca­tions and pref­er­ences. Stu­dents for Fair Ad­mis­sions be­lieves that UT has not met its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tions and is vul­ner­a­ble to a new le­gal chal­lenge.”

Blum, who ma­jored in English and gov­ern­ment, isn’t a lawyer, but he has made some­thing of a cot­tage in­dus­try out of lin­ing up fund­ing, lawyers and plain­tiffs in a 20-year quest to end the use of racial and eth­nic con­sid­er­a­tions

in col­lege ad­mis­sions, vot­ing rights and other as­pects of pub­lic pol­icy.

His Project on Fair Rep­re­sen­ta­tion, an­other non­profit group, un­der­wrote the Fisher case. In its first opin­ion in that case, a 7-1 de­ci­sion writ­ten by Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy in 2013, the Supreme Court set aside a lower court’s ap­proval of UT’s con­sid­er­a­tion of race and eth­nic­ity and told that court to con­duct a “search­ing ex­am­i­na­tion” of whether such con­sid­er­a­tions are re­ally nec­es­sary to ob­tain the ed­u­ca­tional ben­e­fits of di­ver­sity.

The lower court con­cluded once again that UT’s pro­gram was le­gal. The Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to take the case a sec­ond time, an un­usual move, seemed to sig­nal a grow­ing will­ing­ness among its con­ser­va­tive mem­bers to re­ject UT’s ap­proach.

But Kennedy, the swing vote, sided with the univer­sity in an opin­ion that said “race con­scious­ness played a role in only a small por­tion of ad­mis­sions de­ci­sions,” call­ing that “a hall­mark of nar­row tai­lor­ing, not ev­i­dence of un­con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity.”

He also wrote that school of­fi­cials had an “on­go­ing obli­ga­tion to en­gage in con­stant de­lib­er­a­tion and con­tin­ued re­flec­tion re­gard­ing its ad­mis­sions poli­cies.”

The plain­tiff in that case was Abi­gail Fisher, a white woman who sued in 2008 af­ter her ap­pli­ca­tion for UT ad­mis­sion was re­jected. About three-fourths of fresh­men get into UT un­der a state law that guar­an­tees ac­cep­tance solely on the ba­sis of Texas high school class rank.

The cut­off for au­to­matic ad­mis­sion has ranged from the top 10 per­cent to the top 7 per­cent de­pend­ing on the univer­sity’s es­ti­mates of what it will take to fill that por­tion of the class.

The re­main­ing ap­pli­cants, in­clud­ing those from out­side Texas, are con­sid­ered un­der a so-called holis­tic re­view that takes race and eth­nic­ity into ac­count along with nu­mer­ous other fac­tors.

The holis­tic por­tion of the ad­mis­sions pro­gram was the fo­cus of the Fisher case and would likely be the fo­cus of a new case.

Blum also or­ga­nized law­suits in which Stu­dents for Fair Ad­mis­sions is the plain­tiff against Har­vard Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Those cases, filed in fed­eral courts in Oc­to­ber 2014, con­tend that well-qual­i­fied Asian-Amer­i­cans are rou­tinely de­nied ad­mis­sion solely on the ba­sis of race. The law­suits seek “the out­right pro­hi­bi­tion of racial pref­er­ences in univer­sity ad­mis­sions — pe­riod.” Har­vard and UNC-Chapel Hill say their ad­mis­sions pro­grams pass le­gal muster.

Asked whether a law­suit against UT would be filed in fed­eral court or state court, Blum said, “Both are vi­able av­enues to bring a new chal­lenge.”

Inas­much as he is fresh off a loss in his fed­eral court chal­lenge to UT’s pro­gram, Blum might have a bet­ter chance in state court. Ar­ti­cle 1 in the Texas Con­sti­tu­tion’s Bill of Rights states: “Equal­ity un­der the law shall not be de­nied or abridged be­cause of sex, race, color, creed, or na­tional ori­gin.” The amend­ment was added in 1972.

JAY JAN­NER / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN 2013

Abi­gail Fisher and sup­porter Edward Blum (cen­ter right) de­part af­ter a hear­ing in her case in 2013. Fisher sued in 2008 af­ter her ap­pli­ca­tion for UT ad­mis­sion was re­jected.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.