The Supreme Court will decide a huge affirmative action case as early as Thursday, and a 23-year-old Texan’s story could help do away with race-based preferences in colleges forever.
Abigail Fisher is challenging race-based affirmative action at the University of Texas at Austin, her dream school that rejected her in 2008.
Like many plaintiffs in highly politicized cases, Fisher didn’t have the initial idea to file this lawsuit. The case is the brainchild of conservative activist Edward Blum. (He’s also behind the challenge to the Voting Rights Act.)
In cases like this one, lawyers need a plaintiff who’s been “injured” by a law or policy in order to bring their suit. Fisher was arguably injured because she’s white and got rejected from a college that has affirmative action. At UT, students in the top 10% of the class at every Texas school automatically get admitted. For students who don’t get in that way, UT considers race and other factors.
When Blum started looking for a face for his cause, he wanted to find somebody who was a good student but didn’t make the 10% cutoff, ProPublica’s Nikole Hannah-Jones recently told NPR. Fisher’s father, an associate of Blum’s, reached out and said his daughter had been rejected from UT. Her story fit the bill.
She had a 3.59 grade point average and came in 82nd in her 674-person class at Stephen F. Austin High School — close to the top 10%.
Fisher says that year UT admitted non-white kids in her class with worse grades and fewer extracurricular activities. She believes she’s a victim of discrimination.
“I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong and for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me,” Fisher has said in a video promoting her case.
Despite the alleged discrimination she’s endured, Fisher seems to have done pretty well for herself. She went to Louisiana State University and scored a job as a financial analyst when many people her age are unemployed.
But she still thinks she missed out by not “being in a network of UT graduates,” she has told The New York Times.
“And I probably would have gotten a better job offer had I gone to UT,” she added.
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