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.