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Texas' Affirmative Action Approved by Fed Court

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By Minara El-Rahman on January 21, 2011 11:48 AM

Everything is bigger in Texas; even their lawsuits.

The University of Texas admission policy that included race based admission was upheld as passing constitutional muster by the 5th Circuit Court, the Wall Street Journal reports. The reason that this case seems bigger than most is because in 1996, the same court ruled that the University of Texas was banned from using race based admission.

The University of Texas admission policy using race started in 2005. As a result of this race based admission policy, the enrollment of African American students doubled from 1998 to 2008. Hispanic enrollment at the university increased from 762 students in 1998 to 1,228 students in 2008.

The University of Texas admission policy was challenged by two white students by the names of Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz who were denied admission in 2008, the Austin Statesman reports. The plaintiffs claimed that the university did not have the right to have race based admissions because it already had a program in place to boost minority enrollment.

The panel of 3 judges unanimously ruled that the University of Texas could use race as one of the "special circumstances" to evaluate student applicants because race is not the only factor that the university's admissions considered, Reuters reports. They based this ruling on the Supreme Court case Grutter v. Bollinger which was decided in 2003. The case held that a school's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause; especially if it is to further a compelling interest in the educational benefits from a diverse student body.

In other words, if the admissions policy of a school is used in a specific way to ensure a diverse student body, it can pass constitutional muster.

While it seems that the 5th Circuit has spoken, the women's attorney Bert Rein neither confirmed nor denied the possibility of an appeal. "No decision has been made on whether to appeal further, he said to Houston Chronicle, but "there are courses of action open to us. We'll be studying it." Perhaps there will be an appeal that could lead to the Supreme Court? Only time will tell. As for now, the University of Texas admission policy stands.

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