Race May be Considered as One Factor in UT-Austin Admissions Decisions

AUSTIN, TX - Today, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the University of Texas at Austin's holistic admissions plan, affirming the university's ability to consider the race of an applicant as one of many factors in its admissions decisions. The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit in June 2013, after it held that the Fifth Circuit had not applied the correct standard in judging the University of Texas admissions program. On remand, the Fifth Circuit received briefing from the parties, as well as from MALDEF, which filed an amicus brief on behalf of twenty state and national Latino organizations urging the court to affirm the constitutionality of UT-Austin's plan as a complement to the Top Ten Percent Plan.

"Today's decision demonstrates the folly in the ongoing courtroom assault on the limited consideration of race, among other factors, in public university admissions," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "We can only hope that the hardcore 'colorblindness' brigade will now allow universities to go about the critical business of training a leading workforce for our increasingly diverse and interconnected society."

Plaintiff Abigail Fisher filed suit on April 7, 2008 against UT-Austin, alleging that the university denied her admission on the basis of her race. A federal district court denied her claim, holding that UT-Austin's limited use of race met the standards of the Supreme Court's 2004 Grutter v. Bollinger decision, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting en banc, affirmed the lower court decision in 2011. On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Court clarified the standard to be applied to these types of cases and remanded the case to the Fifth Circuit. In upholding UT-Austin's limited consideration of race, the Fifth Circuit recognized that "[d]iversity is a composite of the backgrounds, experiences, achievements, and hardships of students to which race only contributes." The Court held UT's interest in diversity compelling and its careful consideration of race sufficiently narrowly tailored to meet the mandate of the U.S. Supreme Court.

"One year ago, we analogized the Supreme Court's decision in Fisher to a 'check engine light' coming on," stated David Hinojosa, Southwest Regional Counsel for MALDEF. "After a careful and thorough review, it looks like it was merely a faulty light and UT's diversity admissions plan is good to go."

MALDEF has been actively representing amici since the case was being considered in 2008 by a federal district court. It filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, on behalf of itself and twenty-two other national Latino organizations and associations, asking the Court to affirm a public university's limited consideration of race for qualified applicants in seeking to maintain a diverse student body.

A copy of the order is available here.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund