October 24, 2011

PLF Brief asks U.S. Supreme Court to stop discrimination at UT-Austin

By PLF Brief asks U.S. Supreme Court to stop discrimination at UT-Austin

Author: Adam Pomeroy

Last week, PLF attorneys filed an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court. The brief asks the justices to review the case Fisher v. University of Texas. The cases involves Abigail Fisher’s challenge to the University of Texas-Austin’s admission policy, which considers an applicant’s race and provides preferences for African-Americans and Hispanics.

Joining PLF in its brief are the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO), the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), National Association of Scholars (NAS), and Project 21. CEO is a think tank dedicated to the promotion of equal opportunity, colorblind justice, and racial harmony.  ACRI is a national civil rights organization dedicated to education the public about the harms of racial and gender preferences. NAS is an independent association of academics working to foster intellectual freedom and integrity at higher education. Project 21, who refers to itself as “The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives,” is a public policy group dedicated to promote the views of African-Americans committed to an entrepreneurial sprint, dedication to family, and individual responsibility. As Project 21 explained in a press release announcing their involvement, these organization have joined together seeking a clear answer to the question “should an applicant to a college or university be rewarded or penalized simply because of the color of their skin”?

In its brief, PLF argued that the Supreme Court should take this case to ensure that the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” prevails in the way public universities and colleges treat their applicants and students. The University of Texas (UT) violated the constitution when it discriminated against Ms. Fisher in the admission process because of the color of her skin. The Fifth Circuit wrongly concluded that UT’s race-based admissions program complied with the Equal Protection Clause. The decision sanctions the allocation of education opportunities at undergraduate institutions on the basis of race simply for the sake of racial balancing.“This practice encourages stereotyping, implying that all members of racial groups think or act alike, so racial diversity automatically equates to a diversity of perspectives. In the real world, shared skin color does not ensure shared backgrounds or beliefs.  It is as unrealistic as it is unfair to code students by color,” said PLF Principal Attorney Sharon Browne. “Beyond that, as we become an increasingly multiracial society, categorizing people by their race becomes more and more difficult, and more and more dangerous. For government to play favorites by race is a recipe for social division, strife, and balkanization.”

Part of the reason the case is so important for the Supreme Court to take up is that these racial preferences spread far beyond Texas. The brief provided many examples of the pervasiveness of preferences around the nation. At the University of Wisconsin Law School, considering equally qualified applicants who differed only in their race, a black applicant had over a 61 times greater chance of admission than a white applicant and a Hispanic applicant had over a 14 times greater chance than a white applicant. The undergrad campus at the University of Wisconsin was even more extreme, with black and applicants having over a 500 times greater chance of admission than equally qualified white or Asian American applicants (whites and Asians had equal chances of admission). By way of comparison, one well-known study has calculated that smokers have a 14 times greater risk of dying from lung cancer than non-smokers. PLF’s brief included similar examples from other schools in Nebraska, Arizona, and Ohio. Regrettably, racial preferences are pervasive in institutions across the nation and are a determining factor in admission for many students.

For more information, see some of our extensive coverage of the case here, here, here, here, or here.

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