UT-Austin faces third lawsuit claiming white students were unfairly denied admission under affirmative action

UT Tower on Aug. 1, 2016_319546

AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) — A national organization has filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin on behalf of two white students who were denied admission.

This is the third lawsuit in three years the university has faced from the nonprofit, Students for Fair Admissions, over an admissions policy they call “racially discriminatory.”

SFFA is alleging the two students were denied admission to UT-Austin’s 2018 and 2019 entering classes.

The applicants, who attend other universities in Texas, are “ready and able to apply to transfer to UT-Austin when it stops discriminating against applicants on the basis of race and ethnicity,” the lawsuit said.

Several high-profile UT System officials are named as defendants in the 60-page suit, including Chancellor James B. Milliken and members of the Board of Regents, along with interim UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell.

Currently, the university said it’s reviewing the new lawsuit.

What is Students for Fair Admissions?

SFFA has more than 20,000 members who believe “racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary and unconstitutional,” according to its website.

In addition to suing UT-Austin, the group has sued administrators at Harvard University. A federal judge ruled in favor of Harvard last October, upholding the inclusion of race as a consideration in applications.

Past lawsuits

This isn’t the first time Students for Fair Admissions has sued the university. The group filed once in 2017 and again in 2019. A Travis County District judge dismissed the 2017 lawsuit for lack of standing.

SFFA was also behind the high-profile Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, which ended up at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016 and culminated in a 4-3 ruling in favor of the university, with the court holding that UT-Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy did not violate federal law.

In regards to the current lawsuit, J.B. Bird, director of Media Relations and Issues Management with UT-Austin said, “We agreed with the judge’s decision to dismiss SFFA’s previous lawsuit, and we remain confident in the lawfulness and constitutionality of UT Austin’s holistic admissions policy, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in 2016.”

UT-Austin Admissions

In 2018, about 75% of UT-Austin students received automatic admission to the school through the “Top 10% Rule”, a state law that offers admission to Texas students near the top of their high school class. The university has factored race and ethnicity into its admissions decisions for the remaining applicants since 2003, when a different U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared race-based affirmative action constitutional.

You can view the full lawsuit below.

Parts of this article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texastribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans – and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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