The University of Texas and its race-conscious admissions program emerged victorious after another round of legal challenges last Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit voted not to rehear the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case.
Earlier this year, a three-judge panel of the court ruled in favor of the University, upholding the school’s consideration of race and ethnicity as factors in its undergraduate admissions decisions. The program was carefully modeled after the admissions program used by the University of Michigan Law School, which the Supreme Court approved of in Grutter v. Bollinger. Like Michigan, UT’s program seeks a “critical mass” of minority students in an effort to confer the educational benefits that diversity in the classroom is designed to produce: an education that better prepares students to function as professionals in an increasingly diverse workforce, that integrates unique perspectives from otherwise unrepresented minorities, and that fosters civic engagement for all by maintaining visibly open paths to leadership for underrepresented groups. The panel held that UT’s program met the standards outlined by the Supreme Court — it was narrowly tailored to further the compelling governmental interest of achieving diversity in the classroom.
The Fifth Circuit’s decision to uphold the panel’s ruling is a significant victory and strong affirmation of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Grutter. It is not lost on us that when the Fifth Circuit examined the issue of race in university admissions prior to Grutter, in the 1996 case of Hopwood v. Texas, it completely banned the consideration of race. We celebrate the fact that in the wake of the Grutter decision, UT students will enjoy a more diverse educational environment.