JULY 2014

Message from Dr. Vincent

Dr. VincentOn 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.

GJV signature
Dr. Gregory J. Vincent
Vice President for Diversity and Community Engagement
W.K. Kellogg Professor in Community College Leadership
Professor of Law


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:

President Powers at the podium 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.

Dr. Vincent being interviewed"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."

Erica Saenz being interviewedDr. 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.

As We Saw It banner

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

Dr. Vincent at the podiumCongratulations
Dr. Vincent!

Congratulations to Dr. Gregory J. Vincent who was honored at the 52nd Sigma Pi Phi Grand Boulé in Boston. He received the fraternity’s highest award, the Grand Sire Archon Award, recognizing his excellent service to the fraternity, his community and to young men.

UT Outreach and Summer Bridge Programs Help Make Dream Come True for Nestor Castro

Nestor CastroNestor Castro is one of two San Antonio students who were selected to receive the UT Outreach Scholarship, awarded to outstanding UT Outreach participants who will attend the University of Texas at Austin. The scholarship honors Nestor's hard work and dedication to UT Outreach – San Antonio, and will cover $20,000 of tuition costs at UT Austin disbursed over four years.

A Harlandale High School student, Nestor began his path to achievement four years ago when he joined DDCE's UT Outreach-San Antonio as a freshman. Nestor was certain he wanted to continue his education after high school, but the program provided him with new, useful information he had not considered.

"The student meetings and workshops held by UT Outreach have definitely been the most beneficial in my college process," Nestor observes, "Such events provided me with information regarding college applications and financial aid, [ranging from] deadlines, to scholarships and college advice." Read more.

Freedom School at Oak Springs Elementary Motivates Neighborhood Students

YouTube screenshot of See A Book videoStudents at the Children's Defense Fund Freedom School at Oak Springs Elementary in East Austin begin each morning with Harambee!–best described as a fun and super motivational pep rally for the students attending the summer enrichment program.

This week DDCE staff members had the pleasure of visiting the Children's Defense Fund Freedom School at Oak Springs Elementary in East Austin. The school is operated with the help of Welcome Table Inc., one of the DDCE's community partners.

Freedom School student readingThe Freedom Schools program provides summer and after-school enrichment through a research-based and multicultural curriculum that supports children and families around five components: academic enrichment, parent and family involvement, civic engagement and social action, inter-generational leadership development and nutrition, health and mental health.

Students from Rice University, Huston-Tillotson University and The University of Texas at Austin lead the students at Oak Springs through the activities and welcome community members to read and work with students as well. The college student leaders receive training each year, facilitated by national Children's Defense Fund staff in Tennessee.

Shardé Chapman, who is working on her doctorate in Religious Studies at Rice University, is leading the Austin Freedom School this summer. A five-year veteran of Freedom School, Chapman said that she sees changes in the children who participate. "I see increased confidence, love of reading, better understanding of history, and even increased hope in their futures," she said. She believes the  "high quality academic engagement through literature that minority students can connect with" is one of the most valuable aspects of the program. Read more.

Former Longhorns Use Natural Hair Conversation to Educate, Empower and Evangelize

Hair care isn't exactly the industry that most imagine when envisioning platforms to drive the diversity and inclusion conversation or to enact social change, but for four University of Texas at Austin (UT) alumnae, their individual expertise and passions have come together to drive forward important dialogue, where inclusion and cultural acceptance is at the center through the online platform, naturallycurly.com.

Nikki Green (09), Cristina Cleveland (08), Evelyn Ngugi (11) and Susonnah Barklow (11)
Nikki Green (09), Evelyn Ngugi (11), Cristina Cleveland (08), and Susonnah Barklow (11)

Nikki Green (09), Cristina Cleveland (08), Evelyn Ngugi (11) and Susonnah Barklow (11) each came to UT looking for a unique experience. Nikki, a communications major, desired a campus where she could get a great education in the state of Texas, whereas Cristina, who studied advertising, transferred her sophomore year from a prominent private Texas institution, believing that UT's large international population could provide the cultural diversity she was missing in her college experience prior.

"I couldn't imagine graduating in four years and only knowing one type of person, I wanted an environment that offered people with different life experiences and perspectives." Having grown up in Brownsville, Texas, Susonnah thought UT offered a refreshing opportunity to explore life outside of her Latina roots, "I was just amazed by all the languages I heard every day walking around campus. I grew up in a majority Hispanic community and I appreciated getting to know people from different backgrounds."

Dallas-Fort Worth native Evelyn, who majored in journalism, gravitated to UT for the big university experience, providing just enough people and things to do that she could challenge herself to try new things and meet new people. Read more.

Editor: Leslie Blair. Web: Jason Molin

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