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LDF Joins Outpouring of Support for Diversity in Higher Education in Supreme Court Briefs in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

11/03/15

LDF Joins Outpouring of Support for Diversity in Higher Education in Supreme Court Briefs in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

Washington, D.C.—Yesterday, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (“LDF”) filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (“Fisher II”), urging the U.S. Supreme Court to (1) reaffirm the longstanding principle that a diverse student body yields numerous educational, professional, and societal benefits; and (2) reject a second challenge to the University of Texas at Austin’s (UT) holistic admissions policy. UT presently admits the majority of its students by accepting those with the highest GPAs from each high school in the state. UT supplements that admissions policy through a process that takes into account a wide variety of factors, including race, as well as a student’s academic and personal achievements. 

Diversity remains a bedrock of our nation’s strength, from the classroom, to the workplace, to our competitiveness in the global economy and beyond,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of LDF. This case tests whether our nation’s universities, which are charged with the paramount task of preparing the next generation’s leaders, can continue to consider and foster diversity – which is critical to breaking down stereotypes, combating bias, fostering mutual respect, and furthering academic success.” 

LDF’s amicus brief asserts that “[w]hen students encounter classmates from different backgrounds—within and across dimensions of race, socio-economic status, and beyond—and come to understand and respect each other as individuals, they are all better for it. LDF also explains that, because the Petitioner here, Ms. Abigail Fisher, who first challenged UT’s policy in 2008, has since graduated from another university and, importantly, would not have been admitted to UT even without the race-conscious policy, she has no right to challenge the Court’s precedents recognizing the value of racial diversity. Lastly, LDF emphasizes that UT’s individualized admissions policy meets all constitutional requirements, given the ongoing legacy of discrimination on UT’s campus and in the state, and the inadequacy of the “race-neutral” policies through which UT previously and unsuccessfully attempted to achieve diversity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld UT’s admissions policy in 2011 and again in 2014 on remand from the U.S. Supreme Court. The case is now before the Supreme Court for a second time. LDF again represents the Black Student Alliance (BSA) at UT and the Black Ex-Students of Texas, Inc. (BEST), whose members have experienced racial isolation in their classes, extracurricular activities, and other areas of college life.

It is especially crucial to maintain and expand pathways to opportunity for African-American students, who were excluded from schools like the University of Texas at Austin for much of our nation’s history, and whose individual experiences, including their racial identity, should receive full consideration, as should all students’ experiences.” said LDF’s Associate Director-Counsel Janai Nelson. As shown by the overwhelming number of amicus briefs filed in support of diversity, that pipeline of opportunity must begin in early education and extend throughout higher education, to fill the echelons of public and private leadership.”

LDF has long played a key role in the litigation of this case, filing an amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 and twice presenting oral arguments in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In submitting this second amicus brief to the Supreme Court, LDF stands alongside a broad and varied coalition in support of UT, including: scores of Fortune 100 companies and leading American businesses; a group of retired military leaders; the U.S. Solicitor General; 18 states; dozens of Texas legislators; numerous universities, colleges, and educational associations; and more than 800 social scientists. This broad-based coalition also includes dozens of national civil rights organizations, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.

Click here to read LDFs Amicus Brief.

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The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) is not a part of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) although LDF was founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights. Since 1957, LDF has been a completely separate organization. Please refer to us in all media attributions as the “NAACP Legal Defense Fund” or “LDF”.