The University of Texas can continue to use race as a consideration for undergraduate admissions, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.
“To deny UT Austin its limited use of race in its search for holistic diversity would hobble the richness of the educational experience,” wrote Judge Patrick Higginbotham in the 2-1 opinion for the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
“Universities may use race as part of a holistic admissions program where it cannot otherwise achieve diversity,” Higginbotham wrote for the court. “This interest is compelled by the reality that university education is more the shaping of lives than the filling of heads with facts — the classic assertion of the humanities.”
The dissenting judge, Emilio Garza, said the university “has not defined its diversity goal in any meaningful way,” making it “altogether impossible to determine whether its use of racial classifications is narrowly tailored.”
The original lawsuit was filed by Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was denied admission to the university in 2008. The 5th Circuit ruled against her and she appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled last year that the university could use race-based policies if they were truly necessary to achieve diversity. The high court sent the case back to the 5th Circuit for another look.
Tuesday’s ruling follows a Supreme Court decision in April that upheld a Michigan ban on affirmative action in college admissions.