SCOTUS weighs in on college admissions case

REBECCA WHITE, Evergreen reporter

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an argument Wednesday about whether the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race violates the constitution’s equal protection clause.

The case concerns Abigail Fisher, a white woman denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008. Fisher sued the university, claiming she was discriminated against because of her race, and that UT Austin accepted minority students with lower academic performances and fewer extracurricular activities.

This case could have a massive impact nationally for universities’ admission policies, but very little effect on Washington State University’s admission process, thanks to Initiative 200.

I-200, which passed in 1999, was proposed as a civil rights initiative and prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment of any individual or groups based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin by any public entity.

According to a report published by The Education Trust, titled “Rising Tide: Do College Grad Rate Gains Benefit All Students?” WSU has made progress in enrolling and promoting academic achievement for underrepresented minority students in the last decade.

The report states that compared to other public and private universities, the number of students of color at WSU has increased greatly, as well as the graduation rates of African American, Latino and Native American students.

“Our diversity percentage overall across the whole WSU system has been increasing steadily for the past several years while we have continued to enroll more students who are academically well-prepared,” said Wendy Jo Peterson, executive director of Admissions and Recruitment WSU.

UT Austin’s admission program is two pronged; many of their students are admitted through a program where the top ten percent of the class of every public high school in the state is guaranteed admittance.

The remaining applicants go through a holistic admissions process, where race is used as one of many factors examined. Fisher, not in the top 10 percent of her class, was rejected by UT Austin during that process.

In previous rulings, the Supreme Court has not allowed the use of quotas or fixed percentages in admission decisions, which many universities use to create a freshman class reflecting the racial composition of the general population.

To create a diverse educational environment so students of different backgrounds can learn from each other, the court only allows for universities to take race into account is using a holistic admissions approach.

“We seek to enroll students who are the most well-prepared academically to benefit from the educational opportunities available at Washington State University,” Peterson said, “it has been our mission to try to find ways to serve as many qualified students as we can.”

Reporting by Rebecca White