A federal appeals court says the relatively low key 'Affirmative Action' program in place at the University of Texas is a legal method for the university to ensure diversity in student enrollment, especially since the University did not offer any other alternatives to ensuring that the population of the state's flagship university continues to mirror the state's population, Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports.
The court ruled in the case of Abigail Fisher, a former resident of the Houston area, who claimed she was denied admission to the University of Texas in favor of a minority student who had lower test scores.
The University of Texas in 2008, when Fisher applied for admission, had a policy to automatically offer enrollment to any student who graduated in the top ten percent of his or her high school class. Since many high schools 'self segregate' and are made up overwhelmingly of Hispanic of African American students, this has the result of providing a type of affirmative action program, because the top ten percent of those 'majority minority' high schools will be minority students.
That rule fills 81% of the slots at the University of Texas. The rest are reserved for other applicants, including out of state and foreign students, students on athletic scholarships, and students who meet other qualifications for enrollment, from being a veteran to studying a certain type of program, to being a member of a minority group.
"Diversity is a composite of the backgrounds, experiences, achievements, and hardships of students to which race only contributes," the court said, adding that the Grutter decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, while outlawing 'racial quotas' did encourage the University of Michigan Law School to 'attain a critical mass of under represented minority students.'
The Appeals Court said that diversity leads to 'increased perspectives, meaning that diverse perspectives improve educational quality by making classroom discussion livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting when the students have the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.'
Edward Blum, the attorney who represents Fisher, disagreed with the ruling.
"This panel was proven wrong last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, and we believe it will be proven wrong again on appeal," he said.
The case is expected to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"It landed at the Supreme Court's door a few years ago, they took it, they sent it back," he said. "It would not surprise us if we appeal it if they took it again."
Blum cited an April Supreme Court decision which outlawed race based affirmative action.