It Seems Mediocre Grades, Not Ethnicity, Kept Abigail Fisher Out of UT Austin

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Abigail Noel Fisher
The future of affirmative action in American universities could be decided within weeks, in a Supreme Court case with Texas roots. But a new report from the investigative journalists at ProPublica suggests that the story of Abigail Noel Fisher's fight against the University of Texas ultimately has very little to do with race.

Fisher, 23 years old and very white, has been suing the University of Texas since 2008, alleging that the affirmative action process kept her out of UT Austin. The case is bankrolled by the Project on Fair Representation, the brainchild of a 60-year-old former stockbroker named Edward Blum. According to a Reuters profile, Blum sought out Fisher, persuaded her to file suit, found her an attorney, and secured thousands in funding from a few sympathetic conservative donors to make sure the case could be appealed to the highest level. (He's done the same for a dozen or so other suits, including Shelby County vs. Holder, which seeks to strike down a law requiring a few select states -- Texas among them -- to check with the feds before changing election rules.)

Fisher's case is currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, with a decision expected soon. In the meantime, ProPublica took a stroll through thousands of pages of court documents and education records and found that Fisher's public story -- about being a hardworking, high-achieving student who was unfairly shut out of her dream school because of her ethnicity-- has a few large holes.

Nikole Hannah-Jones writes that in 2008, the year Fisher applied, 92 percent of freshman spots in the UT system were claimed by in-state high school students who graduated in the top 10 percent of their classes. That didn't include Fisher, who finished high school in Sugar Land with a 3.59 GPA and 1180 on her SATs, according to court docs.

So Fisher and the other remaining applicants were instead evaluated based on two scores: one for her grades and test scores, and the other based on a "personal achievement index," which ProPublica explains awarded points for two required essays, as well "leadership, activities, service and 'special circumstances.' Those included socioeconomic status of the student or the student's school, coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn't spoken. And race."

School officials say that this is where Fisher's mediocre grades and test scores really dinged her, Hannah-Jones writes: "[E]ven if Fisher received points for her race and every other personal achievement factor, the letter she received in the mail still would have said no."

And yet: the school did offer "provisional" admission to students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Black and brown kids, surely, right?

Wrong. Five of those "provisional" students, according to court docs, were black or Latino. The rest of them --42 in all -- were white.

As Hannah-Jones points out, neither Fisher nor her backer Blum saw fit to mention those 42 accepted white kids in interviews:

Nor did they acknowledge the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher's who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA at another Texas university school in her freshman year.

In an interview last month, Blum agreed Fisher's credentials and circumstances make it difficult to argue -- as he and his supporters have so ardently in public -- that but for her race Fisher would have been a Longhorn.

"There are some Anglo students who had lower grades than Abby who were admitted also," Blum told ProPublica. "Litigation like this is not a black and white paradigm."

Hannah-Jones also does an excellent job showing how Blum's group has used civil rights-era tactics to advance an agenda that, if successful, would drastically roll back civil rights gains in the U.S. They've chosen the right historical moment to take this case before the Supreme Court, she writes: "[A]s the Supreme Court's make-up has grown more conservative, it has taken up a steady stream of so-called reverse discrimination cases, in which white plaintiffs have argued that race-specific measures born of the civil rights movement discriminate against white Americans and violate the 14th Amendment."

Fisher, meanwhile, graduated from Lousiana State University last year. She recently took a job at an Austin finance firm. Her name appears a grand total of five times in the lengthy complaint with the Supreme Court filed on her behalf.

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49 comments
lang.j1030
lang.j1030

a "3.59" GPA is not "mediocre" but it is far from competitive in the UT system. Additionally, an 1180 SAT score doesn't even place you above the top 30% who would be seriously considered for admittance to a major state university.

The real benefit that most white people are deathly afraid losing of is "white privalege".  Anyone who argues against this is delusional.  Fisher was upset because she was banking on her lack of melanin; along with her "good enough" criteria to nail her a spot in the UT system. Well, she was wrong. Instead of not allowing the rest of white america to influence her and become a mindless puppet for their own cause, she should have humbled herself, went to another UT campus after a year like they suggested and transferred to the Longhorns. She would have got what she wanted and met her life goal. Instead, she gave up and settled for LSU which is less competitive. So, at the end of the day, who really won? Clearly not the whites who funded her "crusade" and definitely not her.

8675309ted
8675309ted

3.59 is good.

 i didnt get that she went to another university i hope she did and is moving on

i blew off life as a freshman and finally got on the right track but the freshman year has dogged me for ever


pooua
pooua

3.59 (on a 4.0 scale) is Honor Roll material everywhere I've looked. Then, again, I graduated from high school several decades ago, and a 3.59 might have been in the top 10% of the graduating class.

jeanocelot
jeanocelot

I say she came out way ahead by going to a better university - GEAUX TIGERS!

cherarnold
cherarnold

Weird lawsuit or not, I don't think she had "mediocre grades".  


Unterscharfuhrer
Unterscharfuhrer

This matters because Mr Blum is controlled opposition, he is deliberately losing the case.   He is trying to establish a precedent that seriously hampers any future lawsuit opposing the institutionalized discrimination of White people.  Why else would he pursue this particular student?  He is quoted in the article admitting she is a poor example! 

"In an interview last month, Blum agreed Fisher's credentials and circumstances make it difficult to argue -- as he and his supporters have so ardently in public -- that but for her race Fisher would have been a Longhorn.

"There are some Anglo students who had lower grades than Abby who were admitted also," Blum told ProPublica. "Litigation like this is not a black and white paradigm.""

Another relevant quote:

"The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves." Lenin

sam.norte
sam.norte

This is but another mean spirited article from a semitic anti-White.

sam.norte
sam.norte

Another slanderous and mean spirited article from a semitic anti-White.

sastacara
sastacara

There is no such thing as reverse-discrimination. There is only discrimination.

pigstyish
pigstyish

The brainwashing of America, especially at our colleges and universities, is so apparent in "most" of the comments.  Those of you who really think this is about fairness and equity is living in another world.  This is about gaining a "power shift" to dethrone white people, and get even by perpetrating the same human traits of racism only in reverse.  Many white people, who had nothing to do with past wrongdoings from the past, have been lumped into being victimized by those of color who are trying take care of their "own."  Racism has become a cancer that will ruin this country because of people who are afraid to stand up against those who use the race card to attain new heights of power.

pigstyish
pigstyish

The brainwashing of America, especially at our colleges and universities, is so apparent in "most" of the comments.  Those of you who really think this is about fairness and equity is living in another world.  This is about gaining a "power shift" to dethrone white people, and get even by perpetrating the same human traits of racism only in reverse.  Many white people, who had nothing to do with past wrongdoings from the past, have been lumped into being victimized by those of color who are trying take care of their "own."  Racism has become a cancer that will ruin this country because of people who are afraid to stand up against those who use the race card to attain new heights of power.

pigstyish
pigstyish

The brainwashing of America, especially at our colleges and universities, is so apparent in "most" of the comments.  Those of you who really think this is about fairness and equity is living in another world.  This is about gaining a "power shift" to dethrone white people, and get even by perpetrating the same human traits of racism only in reverse.  Many white people, who had nothing to do with past wrongdoings from the past, have been lumped into being victimized by those of color who are trying take care of their "own."  Racism has become a cancer that will ruin this country because of people who are afraid to stand up against those who use the race card to attain new heights of power.

LKENT
LKENT

self entitled piece of trash... obviously you are getting paid to be a puppet why else would you waste your time...

baduserexperience
baduserexperience

A 3.59 GPA in a competitive high school is "mediocre"?

You must have been quite the student. 

Cliffhanger
Cliffhanger

Good grief. It's college admissions. You get in at some schools, you don't get in at others. That's freakin' life. Get used to it.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum

Sounds like Blum has a loser. Back to square one.

pak152
pak152

"Hannah-Jones also does an excellent job showing how Blum's group has used civil rights-era tactics to advance an agenda" 

so are only folks on the left allow to use such tactics to advance their agenda?

pak152
pak152

too bad pro publica didn't do some real indepth investigation looking at the records of minority students, to see if those with poor records were accepted over other students with much better records. but then there supporters wouldn't like that

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

a 3.59 GPA and 1180 on her SAT

coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn't spoken. And race.

amazing.

Institutionalizing racism to thwart societal racism unmasks the Goddess of Justice.  

The only form of equality which may be sought by the state is equality before the law. With equality before the law, the goddess of justice is rightly depicted as blind as she holds the scales evenly; blind because she is no respecter of persons. To her all, rich or poor, strong or weak, high or low, come for equal protection. Per contra, the state pursuit of race-based quotas is poison to justice and freedom. So too is equality of opportunity if that means, as unfortunately it has increasingly come to mean, that life's races must be fixed so that all start equal.

So it is left to "journalists" to drag her through the trailer park ala Paula Jones for having the temerity to seek justice in court.

I'm surprised you haven't flicked the racism invective.

It only matters if race was used in the qualification process.  Was it or not?

rbeezlee
rbeezlee

You ripped this story from The Atlantic Wire.  How sleazy.  How very Observer.

MattL11
MattL11

So she already graduated from college? Why the hell does it matter anymore? 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

What is wrong with someone with an agenda finding test cases?  It is a tactic used by both sides of the political spectrum.

MittensRules
MittensRules

UT Admissions continues to be a flawed process.  What would be more interesting is to find out how many students who were admitted under the Top 10% or 8% or whatever the cut-off was, didn't make it past their first or second semester at UT.  Unfortunately, students who go to more academically rigorous schools get the short end of the stick compared to those who went to schools that were less demanding.  If all UT looks at is where a student finishes in their graduating class, then they miss some very good students.   

It's too bad that there is not a single, unbiased standard that all students can be judged against.   Back in my day,  UT looked a 3 things when admitting students - SAT score, HS GPA and legacy relationship.  SAT score has been now minimized due to perceived racial bias, HS GPA doesn't take into consideration quality of HS curriculum and legacy relationship has little or no bearing (doesn't matter if applicant would be a 4th generation UT alumnus or if Parents gave $Millions).  

My kids and my $$ are all probably going to college out of state now.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

It is not a question of comparisons to people that did not get in.  It is about comparing to the people that got admitted.  I personally think we just need to go full bore on the 10% or 9.8% or whatever is the exact rate to fill every seat in the incoming class.  It eliminates any special deals and we ensure practically everybody has a minimum of skills.  I'd make athletes conform to same rule. Or better, simply hire athletes to wear the uniforms.  Frankly less than half of students have any business being there and we'll only get anything above being your basic corporate drone out of 20% of the remaining half.  Everybody else in a spaceholder in life.  They can all kinds of social and family successes.  They just won't make a difference to the economy, the thing that funds the school.  We should not lose sleep over result that future drone 3453 got in and future drone 4532 did not.

PersistentID2345
PersistentID2345

It was more a case of her going to the wrong public high school than a case of  mediocre grades. (She finished in the top 12% of a school that had 80% white and Asian students). 

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

Poor White folk, can't catch a break..... 

InCollegeNow
InCollegeNow

@pooua yeah sorry man, but as a recent high school graduate, 3.59 would be considered nothing but mediocre, EVEN if it qualities you for "honor roll". Privileged students from competitive high schools nationwide are taking more and more advanced classes, even college-level classes, just to "get ahead". You probably would've had to get at least a 3.8 to be in the top 10% of the graduating class at my high school.

bendweiser
bendweiser

this case lacks merit because white whining about "reverse discrimination" lacks merit. on average, white people still have more & better opportunities, and white people still enjoy better outcomes. its not a communist plot you fool. 

bigdan312
bigdan312

@sastacara There's no such thing as co-conspirators, either, but lots of people throw that term about.

randi.trollop
randi.trollop

@holmantx It didn't say that she was "coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn't spoken. And race." Those were listed as possible criteria.  Did I miss understand your point?

marcusjmadden
marcusjmadden

@rbeezlee  i guess you didn't pay attention at school because you don't know what you are talking about.

Anna_Merlan
Anna_Merlan

@rbeezlee No, I aggregated it from ProPublica, as I say half a dozen times throughout the blog post. And yes, you're reading the Observer. Well-spotted. Nothing gets by you. 

James080
James080

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul

Exactly. Like Sandra Fluke. She had no problem affording Georgetown law school, but she just couldn't really enjoy the student experience because her heath care plan didn't cover her contraceptives. In reality, she was merely an articulate, attractive face for the class action.

bendweiser
bendweiser

@MittensRules 

you think someone can graduate in the top 10% of their high school class and then just fall completely flat on their face at UT? if that really happens, its more of an indictment of the high school they attended than the admissions process at UT. if someone has the aptitude and the work ethic to outperform 90% of their peers, i think its perfectly reasonable to give them a slot at UT. for the remaining slots, i think its perfectly reasonable to give people some credit for overcoming adversity. if you earn great scores and participate in extracurriculars, then you are doing a good job. if you earn great scores and participate in extracurriculars, AND you come from an economically disadvantaged single parent home where english is a second language, then you are doing an even better job. really, if white people joke that someone who looks like you only wears a suit if they are the defendant in a court case, then you deserve a little credit for rising above all the BS. if two people tie in a race, i would give the win to the underdog who worked 80 hour weeks while he was training and ran it barefoot, not the douchebag who took a sabbatical to train and got custom fitted with a pair of $300 shoes. thats basically what UT is doing. 92% of their admissions process was entirely blind to race, and then for the other 8% race was only one factor among many that were used to distinguish between many talented accomplished deserving applicants. everyone who attended UT was bright and talented and earned their place in the class. nobody got a free ride just because they have a hard luck story or dark skin

roo_ster
roo_ster

@PersistentID2345 Indeed.  Many valedictorians at "vibrant" high schools score lower than the tp 10% (and some cases 25%) of some less "vibrant" high schools.

"Top X% of granduates automatically accepted" is a waste of my tax dollars.

JSSS
JSSS

Actually, it is the poor white folk that can't catch a break. As well as poor black, latino, asian, etc. folk.  The system is set up so the rich get richer.  I only hope that two or three generations from now, my kin can be part of that group based upon the foundation that my wife and I are building.  BTW, as if it matters, I vote republican.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@Anna_Merlan @rbeezlee

When you steal from one author, its plagiarism; if you steal from many, its research. Wilson Mizner

bifftannen
bifftannen

@James080@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaulNo, she referenced other people who had problems during their time at Georgetown due to the high cost of birth control. It isn't always used for sexually active people, as one her cites was a person with poly cystic ovary syndrome.

bendweiser
bendweiser

if a student has the intelligence and the work ethic to outperform 90% of their classmates, that really should count for something. not every parent is willing or able to move to a "vibrant" school district, and i don't think their kids deserve to be punished for that. obviously UT can't repair an unfair unequal primary educational system with the admissions process for their secondary education institution. but its totally fine with me that they take those inequities into account and try to balance them out a little bit

JalopenoGrigio
JalopenoGrigio

@Peterson @PersistentID2345 it's down to either 7%% or 9%%, but some form of the rule is still there.

though I think the rule was still 10%% at the time of this case.

GuitarPlayer
GuitarPlayer

@JSSS 


I hear you. When I said "poor" I didn't mean financially. I feel sorry for them because they are so marginalized.  

mdcunningham
mdcunningham

@JalopenoGrigio It's still on the books as Top 10%, but the number of applications UT gets effectively makes it a Top 7-9% Rule.

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