A federal court ruled that race can be considered as a factor in admitting students, a ruling that came after a longstanding legal maneuvering over affirmative action.
Jarius Sowells, a student at the University of Texas at Austin and officer in the school's Black student government organization. (Photo: Lakeem Wilson)
A United States Court of Appeals has upheld the position of the University of Texas at Austin that race can be considered as one of several factors in admitting students.
The decision in the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case was eagerly watched across the nation. But to African-American students at the college in Austin, the decision is not an issue at some far away university. It is at the very core of their collegiate experience as well as the Black students that come after them.
Interviews with several African-American students at the University of Texas indicate a sense of relief regarding the decision coupled with a desire to see more movement in terms of the hiring of Black faculty and the recruitment of even more students of color.
"The court decision does a lot for students in terms of giving them hope,” said Jarius Sowells, a senior from Dallas majoring in African and African Diaspora Studies, speaking with BET.com. “Hope is what we’re relying on and leaning on.”
Sowells, an officer with the school’s Black student organization, said that many of his fellow African-American students are pleased with the decision, but they don’t see it as the long-term answer to systemic problems.
"If you speak with other Black students here, I think collectively they will say that our representation on campus still isn’t enough,” Sowells said. “Even with this decision, it allows the university to do what it has been doing and at least it doesn’t shoot us backward 20 or 30 years."
He added: “We still need more Black professors. We still need an aggressive effort to recruit more Black students. Also, we have a Black studies program that is hanging on by a thread. There are still a lot of needs here.”
Taylor Strickland, a senior from Aurora, Colorado, majoring in corporate communications, has a similar take.
“The decision is something that we’re pleased with,” she said, in an interview with BET.com. “Diversity is something that the school and the students care about. It’s not about the numbers. It’s about what diversity offers to the university community.”
In the ruling, Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham referred to two previous decisions by the United States Supreme Court regarding affirmative action.
“We are persuaded that to deny U.T. Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience in contradiction of the plain teachings of Bakke and Grutter,” Judge Higginbotham wrote.
William C. Powers Jr., the president of the University of Texas at Austin, expressed his pleasure with the court’s decision.
“This ruling ensures that our campus, our state and the entire nation will benefit from the exchange of ideas and thoughts that happens when students who are diverse in all regards come together in the classroom, at campus events and in all aspects of campus life,” he said.
Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan
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