Affirmative Action and the Constitution
In 1997, the Texas legislature determined that the top ten percent of graduates from all of the state’s public high schools would automatically be admitted to Texas state universities. Sending the top ten percent of students from each school allowed for more diversity in higher education because individual high schools tend to be racially homogenous. In 2007, the University of Texas decided to give preference to “underrepresented minorities” in the admissions process in addition to the “Top Ten” percent of public education students. Student Abigail Fisher was not in the top ten percent category and believed that she was treated unfairly by the University of Texas because she was not a member of a racial minority. The Supreme Court will hear Fisher’s case and its subsequent ruling may result in a change in the procedures that public universities and colleges across the country use in their admissions processes.
Student Handout (PDF)
Bill of Rights Institute Resources
Supreme Court Case Summaries from the Oyez Project
- Justices Take Up Race as a Factor in College Entry – New York Times
- Supreme Court to take up reverse affirmative action case at Texas university – FOX News
- Mass. colleges gird for fight over admissions – Boston.com
- Supreme Court will hear case on affirmative action at colleges – LA Times
- Supreme Court Takes Up Affirmative Action Case – ABC News
Questions to Consider
- What are the facts in the Fisher v. University of Texas case?
- What rationale does the University of Texas use in their admissions process?
- Why does Fisher believe the university’s practices are unconstitutional?
- Read the Fourteenth Amendment. What does the phrase “equal protection” mean?
- In addition to the Fourteenth Amendment, what other constitutional provisions, laws, or precedents should the Supreme Court consider in this case?
- How do you think the court should rule on Fisher v. University of Texas?
To give students a broader understanding of Supreme Court decisions relating to affirmative action, review the Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) lesson from our curriculum, Supreme Court DBQs.
- Have students read the opinions on the case and create a Venn diagram to compare Gratz and Grutter to Fisher v. University of Texas.
- Using the cartoons on pages 85 and 86 of the lesson documents, ask student to write a paragraph explaining the meaning of the cartoon and their response to it.