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Brief of 823 Social Scientists as Amici Curiae in Support of Respondents

Date Published: November 03, 2015

It is vital that the Court be informed by the newest and most rigorous peer-reviewed research and statistical analyses when considering an issue that is so critical for all of the nation’s selective colleges and universities. We provide the Court with the most reliable social science evidence that bears directly on whether the Fifth Circuit faithfully applied the Court’s standards in Fisher v. University of Texas, 133 S. Ct. 2411 (2013), in concluding that UT Austin’s admissions policy withstands strict scrutiny. This brief reflects a broad consensus shared by the hundreds of undersigned researchers at leading universities across the U.S. on the key issues before the Court.
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Social science research strongly supports the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that the holistic consideration of race in admissions is a necessary complement to the percent plan for UT Austin to further its educational mission. UT Austin has a compelling interest in creating a meaningful level of inclusion of students from different racial groups and generating rich diversity to dispel racial stereotypes and foster educational excellence.

A substantial body of rigorous social science research supports the Fifth Circuit’s conclusion that the extensive outreach and recruitment efforts UT Austin implemented to obtain racial diversity under the percent plan, on their own, have not been sufficient complements to the percent plan to achieve UT Austin’s educational mission. The claim that the percent plan is an effective alternative to a race- sensitive admissions policy relies on the Petitioner’s effort to problematically lump African American and Latino students into a single category, concealing important differences related to the workability of the plan for each group. The percent plan, which relies on segregated school attendance patterns in the state, has not yielded the desired results at UT Austin. Whereas as a complement to the plan, the individualized consideration of race has enabled UT Austin to create a more stimulating and productive educational environment for all of its students.

UT Austin’s experience with the percent plan and analyses based on statistical simulations for other states show that percent plans alone, even in states where secondary schooling is largely segregated by race (as it is in Texas), do not yield the level of diversity needed to obtain the educational benefits of diversity. Giving weight to socioeconomic status alone does not produce the diversity needed to further UT Austin’s academic mission, and relying largely or solely on socioeconomic status to achieve diversity is not a feasible alternative. The extensive experience of selective colleges and universities using alternatives to race-sensitive admissions decisions in other states, including California and Michigan, underscores the need for UT Austin’s holistic policy. This evidence compels the conclusion that there are no effective substitutes for race-sensitive admissions decisions in generating the diversity required to further UT Austin’s educational mission.

There are great costs in not considering race in admissions in the narrowly tailored manner that UT Austin employs. Research on the impact of laws that ban the consideration of race in admissions shows that at selective schools these bans have led to de- clines in racial and ethnic student body diversity, including in the important fields of medicine, law, business, and science. Not only do these declines degrade the educational experiences of students, but they harm the nation’s future. Research shows that barring the kind of consideration that UT Austin gives race in its holistic admissions system cannot only isolate and stigmatize admitted students, but may also harm race relations by limiting cross campus racial integration and preventing institutions from addressing and countering the ways in which race shapes the educational experiences of all students.


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