One of AAUW’s key issues is increased access to higher education, and in accordance with our member-adopted Public Policy Program, we support affirmative action programs that establish equal opportunity for women and minorities and improve gender, racial, and ethnic diversity in educational institutions.
Earlier this month, AAUW signed on to an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold racial preferences in college admissions. The court will hear the case, Fisher v. University of Texas, when the court reconvenes in October.
In 2008, Abigail Fisher applied for undergraduate admission to the University of Texas, Austin. UT’s undergraduate admissions policy automatically admits Texas high school seniors who graduate in the top 10 percent without any consideration of race or other factors. For applicants who are not in the top 10 percent, UT looks at several factors to make admissions decisions, including race, “personal achievement,” and “special circumstances.” Fisher was not in the top 10 percent of her high school class and was not admitted to UT. She went on to attend and graduate from another school.
However, Fisher filed a lawsuit against UT, arguing that since the university had already implemented a race-neutral policy to increase minority admissions, it should not have an additional race-conscious policy and that the race-conscious policy should be abolished. No court has sided with Fisher’s argument, but the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in its 2012–13 term.
The court’s decision to hear the case raises concerns that it is looking to overturn the race-conscious admissions policies that are allowed under its 2003 Grutter v. Bollingerdecision, which allowed public colleges and universities to consider race in admissions decisions. The Supreme Court ruled that while these schools could not use a point system to increase minority enrollment, they could take race into account in vaguer ways to ensure academic diversity. AAUW signed on to an amicus brief in Grutter that supported affirmative action in higher education.
Many legal experts believe the court’s current composition could lead it to reverse Grutter and rule against UT’s race-conscious admissions policy. AAUW would be disappointed with that decision, which is why we signed on to an amicus brief in support UT’s admissions policy.
AAUW believes that efforts to constrain or end affirmative action programs threaten the gains of women and minorities. We will continue to monitor the Supreme Court’s arguments and decision and to work to promote education for all.
Read more about AAUW’s position on affirmative action.