Statement of the American Association for Affirmative Action on Supreme Court's Impending Decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas Case

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In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court's imminent decision in the affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas the American Association for Affirmative Action, an organization of equal opportunity, affirmative action and diversity professionals, urges the Court to follow its own precedent in the Grutter v. Bollinger case in 2003 and continue to hold that diversity in higher education admissions is a compelling state interest. Colleges and universities should be able to consider the whole student, including a student's race among many factors, to determine who is admitted.

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In anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court's imminent decision in the affirmative action case of Fisher v. University of Texas the American Association for Affirmative Action, an organization of equal opportunity, affirmative action and diversity professionals, urges the Court to follow its own precedent in the Grutter v. Bollinger case in 2003 and continue to hold that diversity in higher education admissions is a compelling state interest. Colleges and universities should be able to consider the whole student, including a student's race among many factors, to determine who is admitted.

AAAA President Gregory T. Chambers stated: "Now that the Supreme Court has decided to revisit the question of race in admissions decisions, an issue that we hoped had been decided in 2003, we urge the Court to respect its own precedent and uphold the use of race among many factors in higher education admissions."

AAAA's amicus brief filed in August of 2012 makes several fundamental arguments. First, the association urges that the consideration of race as a factor in admissions must not be subjected to a level of review that is strict in theory but fatal in fact. The Constitution permits and protects the University of Texas at Austin's holistic consideration of each applicant's complete identity as part of an admissions process Intended to achieve diversity in the educational setting. AAAA counsel David Goldstein of the Littler law firm in Minneapolis, MN stated: "The University of Texas at Austin has worked hard to develop a fair and inclusive admissions program that contributes to diversity on campus in the broadest sense of the word without unfairly burdening anyone. The Supreme Court should not substitute its policy preferences for the carefully made determinations of the University and the Texas legislature to which the University is directly accountable."

Second, AAAA submits that the State of Texas has a compelling interest in securing the educational and workplace benefits that flow from diversity. In deciding the 2003 case against the University of Michigan, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court upheld the notion that diversity in higher education admissions was a compelling state interest - a requirement to meet constitutional muster. In the Texas case, the university has amply shown that it has a compelling interest in having a diverse student body. Moreover, the state's employers and tax base depend on having well-educated individuals of all races.

Third, AAAA argues that the steps the University took to promote diversity were "narrowly tailored," - another constitutional requirement - and necessary to achieve the compelling state interest. Texas made an extraordinary effort to research and demonstrate the need to add race as a consideration in admissions. Moreover, so-called race-neutral measures are never truly race-neutral. Admissions criteria such as test scores have inherent biases and a have statistically significant adverse impact on African-American and Hispanic students. "Lower standardized test scores do not mean that minorities are academically inferior and unable to compete in an academically competitive environment," said AAAA Co-Counsel Dean Sparlin.

Lastly, AAAA takes issue with critics of diversity programs who allege that Socioeconomic Status (SES) or class is a proper alternative to race as a factor in admissions. Race matters and substituting economic disadvantage for race does not compensate; it will result in fewer disadvantaged minorities entering competitive colleges and universities. Low SES has not been the basis for the systematic exclusion of students from higher education; race and ethnicity have.

AAAA President Gregory T. Chambers added: "This nation is becoming increasingly diverse and it is not the time to close the doors of opportunity based on race or national origin. The nation's future depends upon all qualified individuals receiving a chance to compete in education, employment and business."

Founded in 1974, the American Association for Affirmative Action (AAAA) is a national not-for-profit association of professionals working in the areas of affirmative action, equal opportunity, and diversity. AAAA assists its members to be more successful and productive in their careers. It also promotes understanding and advocacy of affirmative action to enhance access and equality in employment, economic and educational opportunities.

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