Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Hopwood or Fordice: Which Controls in the Fifth Circuit?

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Hopwood or Fordice: Which Controls in the Fifth Circuit?

Article excerpt

Hopwood or Fordice: Which Controls in the Fifth Circuit?

Texas and federal officials have expressed doubts that the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Ayers v. Fordice will affect efforts undertaken by Texas officials to adopt race-neutral policies in its colleges.

Although federal education officials are evaluating whether Texas has met the standard set by the Supreme Court in the Fordice case as well as Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, state officials say they continue to be bound by Hopwood. In Hopwood v. The State of Texas, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court struck down an affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Texas law school, a decision that has been interpreted by the state attorney general as prohibiting any use of race in higher education policy.

Rick Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Education, said department officials don't believe the Ayers v. Fordice ruling will have any impact on how the 1996 Fifth U.S. Circuit Court decision in Hopwood is being interpreted by Texas officials. He said education department officials are reviewing the decision to determine its full policy implications.

Alvin Chambliss Jr., lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the Fordice case, disagrees. "Fordice trumps Hopwood." he said, adding that unlike in Hopwood, the Fifth Circuit ruled in Fordice that diversity is important. (For his analysis, see pg. 32.)

Sonya Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the Texas attorney general's office, said that based on an informal review by a staff attorney in the attorney general's office, the April 23 Ayers v. Fordice decision does not appear to have any impact on Texas's adoption of race-neutral policies in its higher education system. Sanchez said the attorney general's office has not considered launching an official review of the Ayers v. Fordice decision because there's been no request by Texas officials to do so. By not formally reviewing the decision, the state of Texas will continue to follow the attorney general's interpretation of the Fifth Circuit Court's decision in Hopwood, according to Sanchez.

Since last year, Texas state officials have scrambled to adopt race-neutral admissions and financial aid policies in the state's public higher education system. Texas officials have done so because the Fifth Circuit decision's in Hopwood banned race as a factor in University of Texas Law School admissions. …

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