This time, for the University of Texas, it’s personal. That’s the inevitable conclusion that springs from the pages of UT’s court papers submitted Monday in a lawsuit challenging its race-conscious admissions program.
The suit filed in June by Students for Fair Admissions, a nonprofit group, contends that the use of racial and ethnic preferences in admissions violates state law and the Texas Constitution. UT’s response in Travis County state district court doesn’t say a whole lot about that claim aside from rejecting it out of hand.
Instead, the university through its lawyers takes on Edward Blum, Abigail Fisher and Richard Fisher. Blum is president of Students for Fair Admissions, while Abigail Fisher is secretary and Richard Fisher is treasurer. All three sit on the organization’s board of directors.
Blum, though not a lawyer, was the architect of a long-running lawsuit in federal court that sought to end affirmative action in admissions at UT. Abigail Fisher was the plaintiff in that case, and Richard Fisher is her father. The U.S. Supreme Court took up that case twice, ultimately finding that UT’s admissions program passed legal muster.
“Now, through their organization SFFA, Blum and the Fishers seek yet another opportunity to challenge UT’s admissions program,” UT’s court papers say. “They cannot accept that each court in their prior litigation ruled against them and determined that UT may lawfully consider race as one of many factors . . . in seeking to foster a diverse student body, which benefits the education of all students.
“Having lost the legal arguments that they asserted from 2008 through 2016, Blum and the Fishers now claim that this honorable Court should give them a new and different result. They apparently believe that their new second-choice, third-choice, and fourth-choice theories should be equally compelling to the unsuccessful arguments they pushed for eight years.”
UT goes on to say that the organization is seeking “a second bite at the apple for its officers and directors: Blum and the Fishers.” And with a parenthetical chip shot, UT makes it clear what it thinks of that strategy: “Blum and the Fishers had their day in court on this issue (indeed, many days in court), and lost.”
UT considers race and ethnicity for a relatively small fraction of its entering class. Under state law, the university reserves 90 percent of its freshman slots for Texas residents, with the remainder for out-of-state and international students. And at least three-fourths of its freshmen from Texas get in under a state law that grants automatic admission based on their high school class rank. Only the remaining applicants, including those from other states and abroad, are considered under a so-called holistic review that takes race and ethnicity into account along with grades, essays, leadership qualities and other matters.