Message from Dr. Vincent
On July 15, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed The University of Texas at Austin's holistic admissions policy. All of us in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement were gratified that the university can continue its effort to admit students with unique talents and backgrounds who can enrich the diversity of the student body in very different ways.
As was noted in the decision, "In both Fisher and Grutter, the Supreme Court endorsed Justice Powell's conclusion that 'attainment of a diverse student body... is a constitutionally permissible goal for an institution of higher education... [the] attainment of a diverse student body... serves values beyond race alone, including enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes.'"
As a professor in the College of Education and the School of Law, I have seen this play out in the classroom many times. Classroom discussions are very different and much richer when the class includes students from diverse backgrounds. Having a diverse student body improves the educational experience for all.
July 15 also marked the beginning of my tenth year on the UT Austin campus. I am blessed to work at this great research university under the leadership of President Bill Powers and with an outstanding staff. I can’t imagine a better way to begin my 10th year than with the Fifth Circuit ruling.
Fifth Circuit Affirms UT Austin's Admissions Process
The decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals was delivered Tuesday afternoon, upholding the University of Texas at Austin's admission process. The summary of the decision:
No. 09-50822 - Before KING, HIGGINBOTHAM, and GARZA, Circuit Judges. PATRICK E. HIGGINBOTHAM, Circuit Judge: Abigail Fisher brought this action against the University of Texas at Austin, alleging that the University's race-conscious admissions program violated the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment to UT Austin and we affirmed. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded, holding that this Court and the district court reviewed UT Austin's means to the end of a diverse student body with undue deference; that we must give a more exacting scrutiny to UT Austin's efforts to achieve diversity. With the benefit of additional briefing, oral argument, and the ordered exacting scrutiny, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.
Following is a statement from University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers regarding today's court ruling in the case of Fisher versus University of Texas. The ruling relates to the use of ethnicity as one factor in determining college admissions.
"We are very pleased with the Court's ruling recognizing the constitutionality of the University's admissions policy under the Supreme Court's recent guidance.
"We remain committed to assembling a student body at The University of Texas at Austin that brings with it the educational benefits of diversity while respecting the rights of all students. This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life."
In response to a reporter's question, President Powers explained the importance of having a diverse student population: "It is important because all of our students regardless of ethnicity or race will be out in a very diverse world, both globally and within the united states. And working across lines of income, lines of ethnicity,lines of political and religious views. It is important that they have an environment on campus where they are learning across those lines." When asked what message the decision sent to students at the university, He said it "extends the message we do believe in diversity and its importance in their education."
Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement, also spoke to reporters about the Fifth Circuit decision. He noted that Fisher v. Texas has had national following because it was the first major challenge to the 2003 Grutter decision. "The Fifth Circuit decision really supports that Grutter is indeed the law of the land, that universities have clear guidance on how to meet both prongs of the strict scrutiny test... That diversity is a compelling interest and to use race as one factor in the admissions decision. I think there is a positive and clear blueprint for universities to follow."
As We Saw It Project Helps UT Reflect on the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Earlier this month the nation commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 being signed into law by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. While Independence Day celebrations two days later may have obscured the importance of the Civil Rights Act anniversary, the day bares great significance to the forming of our nation’s consciousness and historical understanding of our social values and democratic principles. Part of the role of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement is to assist The University of Texas’ (UT) community in observing and understanding our own stories in the context of such pivotal historical moments. This month DDCE encourages us take the opportunity to reflect on how our personal and communal stories are consequences of this historical moment.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act was a pivotal turning point in our nation’s history, but UT was challenging similar concepts of equity through the paradigm of education long before the United States’ struggles to reconcile social practices through policy climaxed. UT’s decision to integrate its campus in 1950 is a part of that national narrative. And so today we carry on in our efforts to observe, document and share the ongoing dividends of the 1964 signing of the Civil Rights Act through the As We Saw It project. By continuing the work of this legislation’s legacy DDCE hopes to continue to unearth important narratives that speak to the power of progress, racial reconciliation and the platform of education.
Join us as we share more stories about UT’s first African American students and their trying and yet unwavering experiences integrating southern higher education and challenging access to the Ivory Tower. This month we narrate the impact of a mother’s touch, the legacy of African Americans in the sciences and continue the narrative of breaking barriers on the 40 acres and the surrounding Austin community. See more at the As We Saw It site.