The Admissions Equity Struggle: Fisher Case Is Latest in a Long History of Texas Legal Battles over Race's Role in Higher Education

By Freedman, Eric | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, March 29, 2012 | Go to article overview

The Admissions Equity Struggle: Fisher Case Is Latest in a Long History of Texas Legal Battles over Race's Role in Higher Education


Freedman, Eric, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

It has been a long, litigious road from Heman Sweatt, an African-American mail carrier who wanted to attend the prestigious, all-White law school at the University of Texas at Austin in 1946, to Abigail Fisher, a White high school student who failed to win undergraduate admission to the same university a half-century later.

Depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court decides after hearing arguments this fall, the cases of Sweatt and Fisher may prove to be bookends in the battle over affirmative action at the flagship institution of the University of Texas system, a battle with wide ramifications for minority admissions to public colleges across the country.

Sweatt's battle began when his application was rejected solely based on race. Unsuccessfully pursuing his goal in the state courts, he told the Houston Informer, "All I can say is that I still want ONE SEAT in the university's law school." Meanwhile, the Legislature scurried to create an all-Black alternative, the unaccredited School of Law at Texas State University for Negroes.

With the backing of the NAACP, Sweatt turned to the Supreme Court, where Thurgood Marshall and W. J. Durham argued his case. Arrayed against them in defense of UT's all-White admission policy were not only the Texas attorney general but also the states of Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia, Arkansas and North Carolina as friends-of-the-court.

Although the Supreme Court fell short of overturning its infamous 1896 separate-but-equal decision in Plessy v. Ferguson as civil rights advocates hoped, it unanimously found that UT and the new law school "for Negro students" were not substantially equivalent and, thus, violated the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection of the law.

After listing such inequalities as faculty size, library and course offerings, Chief justice Fred Vinson wrote, "What is more important, UT Law School possesses to a far greater degree qualities which are incapable of objective measurement but which make for greatness in a law school. Such qualities include reputation of the faculty, experience of the administration, position and influence of the alumni, standing in the community, traditions and prestige."

Sweatt called the court's 1950 order that UT admit him "a milestone in the progress of applied democracy."

Sandwiched between the Sweatt and Fisher bookends was another landmark reverse-discrimination suit by four White in-state applicants challenging their 1992 rejection by the UT law school. In that case, Hopwood v. Texas, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the university's admissions policy that it characterized as adopted "with the best of intentions" but which unconstitutionally gave "substantial preference" to Mexican-American and African-American applicants compared to "Whites and non-preferred minorities."

In response to the Hopwood litigation, the Legislature in 1997 enacted the race-neutral Top 10 Percent law entitling all Texas high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their graduating class to automatic admission to any state university.

To supplement that law, UT developed a system to evaluate applicants who fall below the top 10 percent. It is based on an academic index that combines class rank and standardized test scores and a personal achievement index that includes awards, work experience, community service and "special circumstances" such as students' socioeconomic background and a high school's socioeconomic status.

Fisher sued after she fell short of Top 10 Percent status and wasn't selected for the 2008 application cycle based on the university's evaluation of the other indices. That cycle's cohort of 6,322 newly enrolled Texas residents included 27 percent Hispanics and Blacks. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Admissions Equity Struggle: Fisher Case Is Latest in a Long History of Texas Legal Battles over Race's Role in Higher Education
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.