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Race And Admissions: The University Of Texas' Long History

NPR icon by Erica Ryan
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Eric Gay

The U.S. Supreme Court sent a case involving the use of race in the University of Texas' admissions process back to a lower court for stricter scrutiny on Monday. It's one more chapter in the university's long struggle with how it chooses who gets in.

Here's a brief look at some key moments:

1950: Four years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Sweatt v. Painter that the University of Texas has to let Heman Marion Sweatt, the grandson of a slave, into its all-white law school.

1996: A federal appeals court rules against the UT law school's practice of using race as a factor in its admissions process. (An earlier Supreme Court decision — Regents of the University of California v. Bakke in 1978 — had outlawed quotas but allowed the consideration of race as a factor.)

1997: After UT stops considering race at all in admissions, minority enrollment drops. In response, the Texas legislature passes a law guaranteeing a spot at the University of Texas at Austin (or any public school) for all Texas high school students graduating in the top 10 percent of their class. (The law is later modified to give UT some flexibility.)

2003: The Supreme Court upholds the "narrowly tailored use of race" as a factor in the admissions process in a case involving the University of Michigan's law school. Two years later, UT once again begins considering race when evaluating potential students who are not in the top 10 percent of their class. Race is one part of UT's "personal achievement index," which also includes awards, extracurriculars, leadership skills and other attributes, and is weighed alongside an "academic index" of grades and test scores.

2008: White honor roll student Abigail Fisher, who is not in the top 10 percent of her class, applies for admission to UT. She is rejected and sues, claiming her race worked against her.

2012: The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in Fisher's case, after lower courts ruled in UT's favor.

2013: The Supreme Court rules that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit "did not hold the university to the demanding burden of strict scrutiny" that was required in the court's affirmative action rulings from 1978 and 2003. The case goes back to the lower court.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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