How Ruling on Race in UT Admissions and Charges of Backdoor Deals Tie Together

Categories: Schutze

Thumbnail image for abigail-noel-fisher.jpg
At least Abigail Fisher had the decency to sue to get into UT, instead of paying off a legislator.
Yesterday's ruling by a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding race as a criterion for admissions to the University of Texas at Austin comes on the heels of another big UT-Austin story -- the alleged role of under-the-table political influence in admissions at UT and the precipitous resignation of UT President Bill Powers. Are the two stories in any way linked?

Maybe. UT Regent Wallace Hall of Dallas has dug up evidence of what he says may be a kind of black market in UT admissions. He and a small group of investigative reporters have suggested that powerful legislators are able to get unqualified applicants admitted to UT and its graduate schools through the back door.

Admissions policies aimed at achieving student diversity, especially the 10 percent rule guaranteeing admission to students in the top 10 percent of Texas high school graduating classes, have worked a bitter irony for kids and families trying to get into UT. The kid who attends a hyper-competitive private school where getting into the top 10 percent is just shy of impossible may be able to get into Harvard or Stanford more easily than UT. On the other hand a kid who attends a less competitive public high school where it's easy to get into the top 10 can make it to UT but might not even register a blip on the radar for the top private universities.

Fisher v. University of Texas, the suit in the 5th Circuit ruling, can be viewed as reflecting that competitive pressure. Abigail Fisher, who was denied admission to UT in 2008, complained that UT's "holistic" admissions policies rendered her less competitive for admission because she was white. The 5th Circuit ruled that UT has a right to use so-called holistic standards in which race is only one of many factors.

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

But here's what the Wallace Hall/Bill Powers story has in common with Abigail Fisher: The value of a University of Texas education is going nowhere but up. U.S. News now ranks UT-Austin 52nd among all American private and public universities; Forbes puts it at 66 overall but 12th among big schools; The Washington Post says the University of Texas system has the biggest endowment of any public higher education system in the country; College Database puts UT at 22nd in the nation for the earnings premium enjoyed by graduates.

In figuring the true value of a UT admission, you also have to weigh the less quantifiable factor of extreme Texanism. Among the state's most powerful families, a certain number would much rather see their kid off in the fall to Austin than to Cambridge or Stanford. Some of those families may feel their generous support of UT in the past entitles them to a little something special in the way of access. It's got to be a bitter kick in the ass when it doesn't.

On the positive side, Texas has created an enormous value in admission to the University of Texas. But on the complicating side, Texas also has created a bitter scarcity of admissions for exactly the kind of people who aren't used to having to worry about scarcities -- white people, rich people and people with connections.

As a reaction to that scarcity, the Fisher case is at least head-on, public and transparent. Let's all go to court, all put our cards on the table, all say our piece and may the best man or woman win.

The allegations in the Hall/Powers matter are from the dark side of the same ledger, the things that go bump in the night side. The evidence presented so far, to say nothing of Powers' sudden resignation, suggest that some or all of Hall's allegations may be borne out in months ahead.

If so, it will be an indication that not everybody is going to go the aboveboard but expensive route taken by Fisher. Some people whose kids can't get into UT under the rules are going to do what it takes and get 'er done no matter what, which is, after all, another Texas tradition.

The unifying theme is that we shouldn't be naïve about any of it. You stack that much value on the table and then announce a set of rules for who gets a piece, you have to expect some serious pushing and shoving. It's one instance where we should count ourselves lucky for getting sued. At least you can see that one coming.



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19 comments
markie19
markie19 topcommenter

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holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

I'm surprised she didn't get a pass for being a Chelsea look-alike.

ForTheRecord
ForTheRecord

It was 7%, not 10%, this year.  The law was modified in 2009 to fill 75% of available spaces by automatic admission, whatever % that turned out to be.

JFPO
JFPO

As a 40-something white male, I feel a little less privileged today. I shall remedy this by watching more Fox News and ranting in various online comment threads. #poutrage

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

So now I'm really confused.  Was Fisher discriminated against on the basis of class and income, or skin color?

Maybe she should have gone to that school found guilty of drafting high school basketball players?

roo_ster
roo_ster

Hopefully this goes to SCOTUS and gets overturned.  These 10% & other "affirmative action" plans are successful at puffing up admissions' and other university educritters' egoes but hose minorities who would otherwise have gone to schools better-suited to them due to less financially useful majors and school loans.


Educrat moral preening is not good enough reason to saddle minority students with un-dischargeable student loans and less remunerative majors.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

The kid who attends a hyper-competitive private school where getting into the top 10 percent is just shy of impossible may be able to get into Harvard or Stanford more easily than UT

Almost all of the "hyper-competitive private school[s]" do not rank their students, and because of this the graduating seniors are not able to apply to UT-Austin under the top 10% rule.

we shouldn't be too surprised that Powers, or any other UT person, was willing to work with certain people to gain admission to UT-Austin, the very same thing goes on at every other school, including "Harvard or Stanford". sometimes it is legacies, sometimes it is a celebrity's kid, sometimes it's just a big donation.

doubt this will ever go away....

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@JFPO

Just keep making moronic comments like that and you'll be just fine.

ridethemaverick82
ridethemaverick82

@holmantx She wasn't discriminated against at all. A UT rep made it clear that even with the "free brownie points", she still wouldn't have made it. She simply wasn't good enough, and she was too lazy to do a year at another school and transfer. Also, nearly 60% of the holistic students accepted to UT are white. She is LITERALLY whining about a small handful of students, ignoring all the white students with lesser grades and scores.

ryan762
ryan762

Well, there were minority applicants with higher GPAs and higher test scores than Fisher who also didn't get in when Fisher applied, so the reason for her failure to get into UT seems less like it was solely because of her race.

MikeWestEast
MikeWestEast

@mavdog  It should go away since it is a state school.  While I am not big on race based plans, I think the original 10% plan was a thing of beauty, simple in concept and targeted exactly in right places.  I do not give a rip about UT Austin's place in US News rankings.  I do want state money spent equitably.  Having the top 10% of Brownsville High attend with top 10% of Highland Park just makes sense.  It also removes from the equation some of smartest yet most incompetent managers on earth, university leaders.  Those people could not manage a lemonade stand in the middle of July.

JFPO
JFPO

@holmantx If you think that comment was moronic, just wait until I start watching all that Fox News.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ryan762

Then why did the 5th Circuit rule as they did (retain race as a factor)?

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