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UT-Austin faces lawsuit by two white students who claim they were denied admission based on race

Two white students are behind a federal lawsuit that claims they were unfairly denied entry into the University of Texas at Austin on account of their race.

The lawsuit by the non-profit Students for Fair Admissions, was filed Monday and claims that the University’s use of racial preferences in admissions violates the 14th Amendment, federal civil rights laws and Texas law.

The lawsuit says ‘at least two members’ applied and were denied undergraduate admission to University of Texas at Austin (UT-Austin) in 2018 and 2019. The suit doesn’t name the students.

The applicants ended up going to different schools in Texas and 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 complaint says.

UT-Austin says it uses a holistic admissions process in accepting students, including the consideration of race to build a diverse student body, and 40 percent of the 2019 student body was white. 

Students for Fair Admissions claims to have more than 20,000 members, including students, parents, and others who believe considering race in a college admissions is unfair and unconstitutional.

The group filed a similar case against the UT-Austin in 2018 but it was recently dismissed, according to The Statesman. The organization also sued officials at Harvard University, but last fall a federal judge upheld Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy saying it was constitutional. 

According to a survey of UT-Austin’s Fall 2019 student body 38.8 percent of the student body was white, the largest demographic at the school. Among the student profile 24.4 percent was Hispanic, 22.6 percent Asian, 5.1 percent black, and 5.2 percent foreign.

For the fall 2018 into spring 2019 school year there were 40,804 undergraduate students enrolled.

The lawsuit names over a dozen UT-Austin officials as defendants including James B. Milliken, the chancellor of the UT System, and Jay Hartzell, the school’s interim president.

The organization is seeking a permanent injunction barring UT-Austin leaders from using race as a factor in future undergraduate admissions. 

UT-Austin has been the hit with several major legal challenges regarding the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions.

Fisher vs. University Texas in 2013 and 2016 that saw the US Supreme Court rule that UT’s limited use of race in admissions was constitutional.

‘The Supreme Court decision in the Fisher case affirmed UT-Austin’s efforts to develop a diverse student body that brings with it educational benefits for all students. The university believes diversity is essential to carry out its public mission and that the educational benefits of diversity for all students enhance UT-Austin, the higher education community, and the nation,’ the school says on its website on that ruling.

But in Monday’s lawsuit Students for Fair Admissions accuse the university of failing to meets its obligation in the 2016 Fisher ruling to continue to scrutinize the use of race in their admissions process.

‘The Supreme Court did not give the University of Texas a blank check to use race-based preferences in perpetuity, and the university has failed its obligation to reexamine its policies,’ Edward Blum, the president of the organization said, in the lawsuit. 

UT-Austin’s spokesman J.B. Bird says the university is reviewing the new lawsuit.

‘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,’ he said in a statement.

The lawsuit comes just one week after the school announced new measures to recruit, support and retain non-white students at the school in an effort to reach out to underrepresented students across Texas and improve education opportunities for historically marginazlied students.  

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