Federal Judge Upholds Consideration of Race in Admissions Decisions at the University of Texas at Austin

Judge Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for western Texas threw out a lawsuit challenging the admissions program at the University of Texas at Austin. Two white plaintiffs alleged that they were denied admission because of procedures that unfairly favored minority applicants.

Lawyers for the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Fair Representation argued on behalf of the plaintiffs that race should not be considered in the university’s admissions decisions because an effective, race-neutral plan has been able to achieve a significant level of diversity. (Students in the top 10 percent of their class at any high school in Texas — including predominantly black high schools — automatically qualify for admission to the University of Texas.)

But Judge Sparks said that the university’s admissions procedures, which consider race as one of many factors in their decisions, met the “narrowly tailored” guidelines for affirmative action set forth in the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger.

Judge Sparks was appointed to the federal bench by President George Herbert Walker Bush. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have vowed to appeal the decision.