AUSTIN (CN) - A white woman who graduated in the top 12 percent of her high school class claims the University of Texas at Austin racially discriminated by rejecting her application while accepting black and Hispanic applicants with lower grades and test scores. As an alternative to affirmative action, Texas law requires UT Austin to accept students who graduate in the top 10 percent of their class. The rest of the incoming freshman class may be filled out by using race as one criterion for admission.
Abigail Noel Fisher, of Richmond, Texas, says she graduated from Stephen A. Austin High School in Sugar Land with a 3.6 grade-point average and a combined 1,180 on the SATs - at about the 12th percentile of her class.
The Texas Legislature enacted the Top 10 Percent law in 1997, in reaction to the 5th Circuit's 1996 decision in Hopwood v Texas, which ruled that race could not be used as a criterion for admission to the UT-Austin Law School.
But race became a legal consideration for admission again after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Grutter v Bollinger.
"The Supreme Court held in Grutter that universities have a compelling interest in 'student body diversity' such that, under limited circumstances, they may consider race or ethnicity as a factor in their admissions practices," the complaint states.
The very day that the Supreme Court issued its Grutter decision - June 23, 2003 - the "UT Austin decided to resume employing race as a factor in undergraduate admissions decisions," Fisher's complaint states.
"Since the 2005-2006 academic year, UT Austin has admitted students to its undergraduate program consistent with the Top 10 Percent Law and has filled the remainder of its incoming freshman classes in according with the AI/PAI [Academic Index/Personal Achievement Index] Plan as modified to account for race - the 'Top 10-Race-Based Plan,'" Fisher says.
The AI/PAI plan considers factors such as socioeconomic status, the language(s) spoken at home, the socioeconomic status of the high school itself, whether the student grew up in a single-parent family, and other considerations.
"Although it is not clear how much weight the race-adjusted AI/PAI criteria gives to an applicant's race, it is clear that UT Austin grants to African-American and Hispanic students a substantial advantage in the admissions process that it does not grant to other students such as Plaintiff," Fisher's complaint states.
She demands "a permanent injunction prohibiting Defendants from using race as a factor in undergraduate student admissions decisions at UT Austin".
She is represented by Paul Terrill.
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