Fisher v. UT is a court case involving the University of Texas at Austin and its race-conscious admissions policy. The case reached the Supreme Court in 2012, but was sent back to an appeals court. The case has the potential to stop the use of affirmative action policies in the U.S., but the lower courts have ruled in favor of the university.
In 1996, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Hopwood v. Texas decision prevented universities in the state from considering race as a factor in admissions decisions. In response, the Texas Legislature passed the Top Ten Percent Law
in 1997 to allow for diversity at state universities. The law guaranteed admission for all Texas high schoolers in the top 10 percent of their class to any state university.
The law remained in place even after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Grutter v. Bollinger decision in 2003 reinstated the consideration of race in admissions across the country
Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz applied to UT-Austin in 2008 and were denied admission
. Both students were not in the 10 percent of their classes and were rejected under the university’s race-conscious holistic review process. That year, more than 80 percent of incoming students were accepted under the top 10 percent rule
Arguing the university’s race-conscious admissions policy violated the Equal Protection Clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment, the two sued the university with the financial backing of Edward Blum and his Project on Fair Representation
. After a federal district court judged ruled in favor of the university in 2009 and the Fifth Circuit Court followed suit in 2011, Michalewicz withdrew from the case.
By the time the case reached the Supreme Court in 2012, Fisher had graduated from Louisiana State University
. In an unexpected decision, the court sent the case back to Fifth Circuit Court
, ruling that it did not apply “strict scrutiny.”
A year later, the Fifth Circuit Court again ruled in favor of UT-Austin
. Fisher’s request to have the entire Fifth Circuit panel hear the case was denied
. Fisher is seeking to take the case back to the Supreme Court. If the court again takes up the case and rules in favor of Fisher, the decision would effectively reverse the Grutter decision.