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Statement on the Development of the Brief of American Social Science Researchers in Fisher v. University of Texas

Authors: Gary Orfield
Date Published: August 09, 2012

We hope that this brief will be of use to other parties participating in all American colleges and to the justices and the clerks themselves. Hundreds of experts have participated in this important effort to communicate what is known about the obstacles to and the conditions for achieving successfully diverse campuses that can best prepare young Americans to live and work in an extremely multiracial future.
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On August 9, 2012, scholars from 172 universities and research centers in 42 states  joined together in a brief summarizing key research on affirmative action for the U.S. Supreme Court in the context of the Fisher v. University of Texas case. The entire brief can be read here. For additional resources on the case, see Resources Related to Fisher v. University of Texas.

Excerpt from the Statement

American social scientists from all parts of the country are today presenting a summary of research findings to the Supreme Court as it prepares to hear a key case on the future of integration in America’s colleges this October.  When there is an issue before our highest court that could affect every selective college in the U.S., change their student bodies, and influence the future of racial equality in the U.S., the Civil Rights Project believes that scholars who carry out and know the research issues best should have a voice.  Although lawsuits often involve expert witnesses chosen by the parties to bolster their arguments, these courtroom battles are nothing like the much richer process by which research develops: through an exchange of ideas and perspectives among researchers, with repeated criticism and improvement, all under the control of independent researchers.

Sometimes the Court is criticized for relying on research, but the only alternative -- in reaching conclusions about the conditions of educational opportunity and the impact of various policies on racial equity -- is to rely on impressions and material that happened to be inserted in the record in a particular case.  It is true, of course, that there are always debates within the research community but there is also a strong preponderance of evidence reflected in the extraordinary range of scholars agreeing with these research-based conclusions, about opportunity and race in a complex multiracial society with widely varying conditions and institutions. 

The Civil Rights Project (CRP) was created 16 years ago to provide a channel for and give voice to leading researchers on civil rights, and inform the national discussion about legal and policy issues directly related to equal opportunity for racial and ethnic minorities in American society. We held a series of conferences and published studies by a number of scholars before the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in the Grutter case.  That Court relied on a number of those studies and other scholarly work in reaching some of its key factual conclusions in upholding affirmative action, within strict limits. When the Supreme Court again decided to consider the issue of affirmative action this year in Fisher v. University of Texas, we decided to work with leading researchers, in order to represent the best available research on the issues before the Court.


In compliance with the UC Open Access Policy, this statement has been made available on eScholarship:

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