Supreme Court Watch: Fisher v. UT Austin and the South Asian Community

On June 24, 2013, the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the case of Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, involving the university’s use of race in its admissions policy. Here at SAALT, we eagerly awaited the Supreme Court’s ruling, as we had joined an amicus brief filed by the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice in the Fisher case last year in support of the UT-Austin admissions policy.

In its decision, the Court upheld the broader principles from existing precedent from Grutter v. Bollinger, which allowed for race to be used as one of various factors given the compelling state interest in promoting diversity within education. However, rather than ruling on the constitutionality of the University of Texas’ policy itself, the Court returned the case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court asked the lower court to review whether the consideration of race in the admissions policy in question was narrowly tailored and necessary in order to achieve educational diversity.

Despite common misperceptions to the contrary, South Asians support and benefit from holistic race-conscious admission policies like the one implemented by the University of Texas. South Asian students, along with all other students, enjoy a richer learning environment when they are immersed in a diverse educational setting.  The ability to learn from students and peers various backgrounds helps better prepare them for the workforce and the real world. In fact, in light of ongoing discrimination that South Asians encounter in this country, it is vital that students from other racial backgrounds learn about our experiences and we, in turn, learn about theirs. It is also important for us to remember that it was not too long ago in our own recent history that our community has been denied equal opportunity in this country and race-conscious admissions policies bring us closer to equality. In fact, Asian Americans, including South Asians, strongly support affirmative action and race-conscious policies in educational settings, as shown by recent polling from the National Asian American Survey.

We are heartened by the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold precedent regarding holistic race-conscious policies and are confident that the lower court will uphold the policy upon its review of the case.

SAALT thanks Priya Murthy for her assistance in providing analysis and writing.