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CASE:

FISHER v TEXAS I (2013)

Introduction

 

Fisher v. Texas (2013), also known as Fisher I, addressed higher education officials' rights to use race as a factor of admissions. In 1977, the Texas legislature passed a law requiring the University of Texas (UT) to admit the top 10% of any in-state high school graduating class. The university, in response, modified its previous race-neutral admissions policy, adding the factor of race when considering who would be admitted. Edward Blum, a UT alumnus and acting leader of the nonprofit Project on Fair Representation, opposed this policy. Believing that the university should be able to meet its commitment to diversity without having to consider race, Blum began searching to find a plaintiff to challenge the university’s policy.

 

Abigail Fisher, a young high school senior in Sugar Land, Texas, applied for admission at the University of Texas. Upon being denied entry, Fisher notified her father (also a UT alum), who reached out to Blum. Mr. Fisher shared with Blum his dismay that his daughter was not accepted at the school, despite allegedly having higher qualifications than other, non-white applicants who gained admission.  Furthermore, Mr. Fisher believed that the Constitution required public institutions to be colorblind in their official policies. Fisher’s views aligned with Blum’s in that they both believed the consideration of race for university admissions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

The case was first brought to U.S. District Court, which decided in favor of the University of Texas. Blum and Fisher then unsuccessfully appealed their case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Undeterred, Blum and Fisher appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case.

- Katrina Kier

Constitutional Issue Raised in the Case

 

Does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment allow the consideration of race in the undergraduate admissions process?


 

Citation and Decision

Fisher v. Texas I, 570 U.S. 297 (2013) | Full Decision

When considering the facts of Fisher v. Texas, the Supreme Court invoked the concept of strict scrutiny to insure that UT’s admissions policies were “precisely tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest.” In this case, if the policy could not meet this standard, then race could not be used in the admissions process. In a 7-1 decision delivered by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court majority held that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had failed to follow strict scrutiny when it ruled that the University of Texas’s admissions policy were permissible. Kennedy wrote that UT had to meet a high burden of proof to show that its admissions program specifically met its student diversity goals. The case was then remanded for further consideration by lower courts.

 

Discussion Questions

 

1. What was the racial makeup of the student body at UT in 2013?

 

2. Do you believe the University of Texas has an interest in creating a diverse student body through its admissions policies?

 

3. Why did Edward Blum and Abigail Fisher pursue a case against UT?

4. Does the U.S. Constitution require colorblindness? If so, how do we account for the 77 years of legalized slavery (1789-1865) and 68 years of legalized segregation (1896-1964) that existed under the Constitution? Is there to be no remedy to these past injustices?

5. What is strict scrutiny and why was it applied in this case?​

Links

Oyez: Fisher v Texas (2013)

NPR: SCOTUS and Affirmative Action: Who is Abigail Fisher

American Council on Education: A Timeline of the Fisher case

Daily Texan: Fisher v. University of Texas Explained in 2 Minutes

Understanding Fisher v. the University of Texas: Policy Implications