Jim Vertuno, Associated Press
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A look at some factors and key players in Fisher vs. the University of Texas, the years-long case that ended Thursday when the Supreme Court handed affirmative action a major victory by upholding the school’s admissions program that takes account of race:
Q: How many students are estimated to benefit from the Texas policy that includes race as a factor?
A: Texas caps automatic admissions under the state’s Top 10 percent law — which guarantees entry into a public university for high school students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class — at 75 percent. That leaves 25 percent selected within the holistic admissions plan that includes race and other factors.
White students made up a majority of the University of Texas population until 2010, but no longer. According to fall 2015 enrollment figures, Texas had a total enrollment of almost 51,000 with 45 percent white, 19.5 percent Hispanic, 17 percent Asian and 4 percent black. In 2002, Hispanics made up 12 percent of the UT population and blacks were at 3 percent.
“We don’t have a (racial) quota. It is not constitutional to say our target is to reach a percentage in any category,” Texas President Greg Fenves said. “What we look at is the education environment, students of a different background, different point of view.”
Q: Do other Texas schools use race as a factor in admissions?
A: Texas’ admissions policy is unique within the nine academic campuses of the University of Texas System, but some of the medical campuses also use race as a factor.
The state’s other flagship research institution, Texas A&M University, does not use race as a factor in admissions. In 2015, Texas A&M’s 23 percent Hispanic and black enrollment mirrored the University of Texas.
Texas and Texas A&M wrote new admissions policies in 2003. While Texas chose to include race as a factor, Texas A&M opted for a program that aggressively recruits first-generation students from lower-income families.
Q: Who is Abigail Fisher?
A: Fisher is the white plaintiff who sued Texas over the admissions policy in 2008 when her application was denied after graduating her Houston-area high school in the top 11 percent of her class. She enrolled and graduated from Louisiana State University.
Fisher, now 25, lives in Austin, just a few miles from the UT campus. Fisher is a financial analyst, plays the cello in two local orchestras and leads a “low-profile life,” said Edward Blum, head of the Project on Fair Representation, who recruited Fisher to the case.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has ruled that students applying to the University of Texas can be treated differently because of their race or ethnicity. I hope that the nation will one day move beyond affirmative action,” Fisher said in a statement.
Q: Who is Edward Blum?
A: A former stockbroker and one-time losing congressional candidate, the 64-year-old Blum (pronounced BLOOM) considers himself a crusader for “colorblind” civil rights.
He has had several cases before the Supreme Court. In 1996, the court struck down a Houston voting district Blum challenged as racially gerrymandered. And he was behind a landmark 2013 case from Alabama that knocked down a key portion of the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights advocates have criticized that case as gutting the Voting Rights Act and opening the door for Republican-led states to pass voter ID laws.
A University of Texas graduate, Blum searched a couple of years for a plaintiff to challenge the admissions policy and found her in Fisher, the daughter of a former business associate. •