Supreme Court of the United States: Fisher vs The University of Texas at Austin

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Fisher v. The University of Texas at Austin, as presented to the US Supreme Court mainly concerns the affirmative action of University of Texas (UT) at Austins admissions policy, which as Abigail Fisher, the petitioned, was denied admission to the university in favor for minority applicants with lesser credentials. In essence, Fisher sued UT for violating her 14th Amendment right that holds that everyone has the right to equal protection, but in her admission, she was racially discriminated as she was a white Texan. In essence, Fisher contents that the UT admissions policy can survive strict scrutiny as orchestrated by Grutter v. Bollinger, while the university argues that its policy is identical to that upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger case, by it uses a holistic admission process, and race is essentially one factor of consideration during the admission process, which creates diversity in the student body, thereby benefitting the whole university. In assessing the standpoint of each party, the Supreme Court reexamines Grutter, and considering that it will have huge implications on the admission policies based on racial demographics on all US schools, a careful verdict is paramount.

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In Grutters case, the Supreme Court held a 5-4 split decision holding that student body diversity is a convincing interest, and can be used to justify the use of race in admitting students. The admission policies are narrowly tailored to pass strict scrutiny. For this reason, UT argues that the case is similar to Grutter, and thus affirmative action is not necessary. However, Fisher differs as she contends to differ with UTs assertion by pointing out that the policy violates the 14th Amendment Rights. In essence, the 14th Amendment holds that everyone is guaranteed of equal protection of laws without racial discrimination. In Grutter v. Bollinger, the court was divided, and as asserted, a 5-4 spilt meant that the court upheld the admission policy, which was based on race, of University of Michigan Law School. As such, when applying Grutters case to the UTs admission policy, there is a lot of similarities. For this reason, the UTs admission policy based on this case is permissible. However, for the verdict to be reached, the admission policy UT uses must survive strict scrutiny. However, as Justice OConner asserts, although strict scrutiny can be applied in affirmative programs, courts needed to defer to expert university judgements on making their decisive moves towards incorporating the concept of diversity in schools, which as the picture below shows, most people, in accordance to the case, appreciate diversity

Source: Bazelon and Liptak (2015)

The Supreme Court states that in the case, student-body diversity is a matter of compelling interest, but Fisher asserts that UTs admission process is primarily based on racial balancing, but was held unconstitutional in Grutter. For instance, Fisher points out that the university considers Hispanics as underrepresented but as for Asian-Americans, they are overrepresented, even though there are more Hispanics than Asia-American students in the student body. Considering this, and using Texass racial demographics as a standard for the case, the UT admissions would not be able to advance the diversity interest that was compelled in Grutters case.

On the other hand, UT denies to have been involved in instances of racial balancing, and holds that its interest is mainly aimed at preparing the students for a diverse society that awaits them one they leave the university. In addition, as purported by the university, the admission policy has set no targets or quotas for minorities, and also it does not monitor the racial composition of the individual classes in the process of admission. As such, UT points out that race is just a PAI score factor, which it holds that admissions are based on AI and PAI scores without the knowledge of the candidates racial status. On the other hand, Fisher points out that UT is mainly concerned with promoting diversity at a classroom level, and point out as sustained in Grutter, universities always seek a critical mass of minorities, and does not suggest that the class must have similar critical mass. In addition, as she points out, the Texass Top Ten Percent Law has significantly caused an increased in enrolling the minorities, and thus, the admission policy is not necessarily intended for ensuring diversity. Justice OConnor addresses the Top Ten Percent Law and observes that the plan may prevent the university from conducting assessments that can assemble a student body that is diverse enough and beyond racial composition. Fisher points out that Grutter is characterized by interpretive difficulties which causes lower courts to depart from strict scrutiny, but UT responds by holding that the Court does not question Grutters holding, and applies strict scrutiny, and thus the court should overrule it.

In conclusion, in my opinion, the Supreme Court may favor UT based on the strong counter arguments and the standards used in the admission process, which mainly follow PAI and AI scores. Race is just a factor of PAI score, and thus, there exists a compelling evidence that the university does not discriminate based on race. However, it is very unlikely that those who support affirmative action will enjoy the victory. Since Justice Kennedys vote is unknown, there is a high possibility that the other votes would split 4-4 if Kennedy supports UT. However, the courts decision is clear, affirmed by an equally divided court.

Works Cited

Bazelon, Emily and Liptak, Adam. "How Will The Supreme Court Rule On Affirmative Action? New York Times. n.p., 2015. Web. 30th March. 2016.

Fisher v. University of Tex. at Austin. Supreme Court Oral Arguments. Supreme Court of the United States, n.p. 2015. Web. 30th March, 2016.

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