Jeannie Kever, Houston Chronicle, April 8, 2008
An 18-year-old Sugar Land student sued the University of Texas at Austin on Monday, challenging the school’s use of racial preferences in its admissions policy.
Abigail Noel Fisher, a senior at Stephen F. Austin High School in Sugar Land, was named in the lawsuit filed on her behalf by the Project on Fair Representation.
Project director Edward Blum, an activist against race preferences in Houston before he moved to Washington, D.C., said Fisher, who is white, will graduate in the top 12 percent of her class next month but learned in late March that she was not accepted at UT-Austin.
The lawsuit doesn’t challenge the top 10 percent law, which guarantees admission to those who finish in the top 10 percent of a Texas high school’s graduating class. Instead, it contends that UT-Austin unlawfully uses racial and ethnic criteria to select other students.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Austin, and by mid-afternoon, Blum said he had heard from several other students who wanted to join as plaintiffs. His organization has a Web site, www.utnotfair.org, to draw interested students.
The top 10 percent law was adopted after a 1996 court ruling stopped Texas colleges and universities from considering race and ethnicity in deciding admissions; UT-Austin’s minority enrollment is higher now than at any time since the law passed.
A 2003 Supreme Court ruling said colleges and universities may consider race and ethnicity in order to create a diverse student population only if race-neutral methods haven’t worked.
Blum argues that the top 10 percent law has worked, making it illegal to use race-conscious considerations for students who do not graduate within the top 10 percent of their class.
UT-Austin has 20 days to respond. The lawsuit asks that she be re-evaluated by UT-Austin in a “race-neutral” manner and admitted if she qualifies. It also asks that the school be stopped from using race-conscious criteria for students who fall outside the top 10 percent law.
[Editors Note: the Fisher v. Texas complaint can be read or downloaded as a PDF document here.]