As Supreme Court Hears Fisher v. Texas Affirmative Action Case, UNC School of Law Contributes to the Dialogue

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The U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin case, involving the consideration of race in college admissions, on Wednesday, Oct. 10. For several months leading up to the hearing, UNC School of Law has been involved in the discussion surrounding the case.

On Thursday, Aug. 9, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill filed an amicus “friend of the court” brief in the Fisher v. University of Texas case. UNC is one of the first of about 10 universities who filed briefs with the court.

Prepared by School of Law faculty members, staff from the UNC Center for Civil Rights and the Office of University Counsel, the 27-page brief argues, among other things, that UNC and other public universities have a compelling state interest in preparing students for a diverse society and assuring a pool of strong state leaders by admitting undergraduates from every background.

A requirement to adopt a “race-neutral” admissions policy would weaken the quality of future classes, exclude strong candidates and undermine attempts to create a diverse campus, the authors of the brief write.

The brief also cites supporting evidence of the importance of diversity in education from the recently concluded Educational Diversity Project, a 10-year multidisciplinary research study conducted by four professors, including Charles Daye, Henry Brandis Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Center for Civil Rights. Results of the study, which focused on law school experiences, will be published in the Rutgers Race & the Law Review and are available online at Social Science Research Network: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2101253.

The researchers found that many observed racial differences among students contribute to learning because differences foster richer interactions and positive educational outcomes that benefit students, institutions and society. This exposure to a diversity of viewpoints prepares the students to be better lawyers, making them more “culturally competent.”

Stephen Farmer, vice provost for enrollment and undergraduate admissions at UNC, is following the case extremely closely, since it could affect the nuanced, multifaceted process the University uses in selecting the students for its incoming class.

On Monday, Oct. 7, Farmer, with contributions from the staff members of the UNC Center for Civil Rights, published an op-ed in the congressional newspaper The Hill in which he wrote that UNC holds "that classroom diversity has an essential educational value, and that race-conscious college admissions are vital for achieving the compelling interest of preparing graduates to meet the challenges they will face."

-October 8, 2012

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