Entitlement by “race”: What Abigail Fisher didn’t tell you…

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Is it racist to think you are more qualified because of your ancestors? It seems that Abigail Fisher and her lawyers made an error assuming she was discrimininated against because of her “skin color.” She and her lawyers are preying upon the insecurity and insidiousness of racism that has sadly permeated our society for centuries. What is shocking about Fisher v. Texas is that she is arguing that (somehow, some way) there were African Americans and Latina/os that were gaining admission to UT-Austin solely based on the color of their skin. She was wrong. False. Don’t agree with me? Read the following passage from the Atlantic.

In 2008, the year Fisher sent in her application, competition to get into the crown jewel of the Texas university system was stiff. Students entering through the university’s Top 10 program — a mechanism that granted automatic admission to any teen who graduated in the upper 10 percent of his or her high school class — claimed 92 percent of the in-state spots.

Fisher said in news reports that she hoped for the day universities selected students “solely based on their merit and if they work hard for it.” But Fisher failed to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, meaning she had to compete for the limited number of spaces up for grabs.

She and other applicants who did not make the cut were evaluated based on two scores. One allotted points for grades and test scores. The other, called a personal achievement index, awarded points for two required essays, leadership, activities, service and “special circumstances.” Those included socioeconomic status of the student or the student’s school, coming from a home with a single parent or one where English wasn’t spoken. And race.

Those two scores, combined, determine admission.

Even among those students, Fisher did not particularly stand out. Court records show her grade point average (3.59) and SAT scores (1180 out of 1600) were good but not great for the highly selective flagship university. The school’s rejection rate that year for the remaining 841 openings was higher than the turn-down rate for students trying to get into Harvard.

As a result, university officials claim in court filings that even if Fisher received points for her race and every other personal achievement factor, the letter she received in the mail still would have said no.

It’s true that the university, for whatever reason, offered provisional admission to some students with lower test scores and grades than Fisher. Five of those students were black or Latino.Forty-two were white.

Neither Fisher nor Blum mentioned those 42 applicants in interviews. Nor did they acknowledge the 168 black and Latino students with grades as good as or better than Fisher’s who were also denied entry into the university that year. Also left unsaid is the fact that Fisher turned down a standard UT offer under which she could have gone to the university her sophomore year if she earned a 3.2 GPA at another Texas university school in her freshman year.

Regardless of the fact that the admissions data show that she and her lawyers were wrong. It may not stop the Supreme Court from making a political statement by banning “race” in admission. In the Michigan cases they weren’t able to do this because Justice O’Conner was still on the bench.

Incidentally, I was recently listening to Fresh Air on NPR when Justice O’Conner told of the story that when she graduated from Stanford University Law School, no law firms would hire her because they refused to employ female attorneys. She ended up working for free with a Bay Area prosecutor. Her desk was placed with his secretary. Wow.

Anyways, the fact that Abigail Fisher believes that she was rejected solely based on her race and that the Supreme Court took this case is undeniable evidence that we don’t live in a post-racial society. Some people still believe wrongly, in spite of factual evidence and data to the contrary, that they were discriminated against because they are White. Sadly, Abigail Fisher appears to symbolically represent that some Americans persist in supporting a legacy of racial entitlement and superiority that has permeated our society for centuries.

Note: We examined the historical enrollment of African Americans and Latina/os at UT-Austin in two previous studies.

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Categories: Higher Education Access

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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7 Comments on “Entitlement by “race”: What Abigail Fisher didn’t tell you…”

  1. the everyday academic
    March 21, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Reblogged this on the everyday academic and commented:
    I’m still working through my feelings on affirmative action, but given this new information about Fisher’s application and the competitiveness of the pool that year, I think it’s a shame that this is the case that might force a decisive ban on the consideration of race in admissions.

  2. dongmei
    March 23, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    great to know the part of the factual evidence and data. (42; 168)
    the concluding sentence is cutting to the point, powerful and sad to know. some people just want the status quo, fear the loss of their privileged status…

  3. Jason
    March 27, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

    While I acknowledge the fact that universities deny that they pick based on race, I highly doubt they don’t.

    It’s easiest to see this with Asians. From personal experience, I’ve seen numerous Asians (and Whites) dropped from the same colleges that other Hispanics and blacks were getting into, and those Asians scored much higher SAT scores (some even perfect 2400s) along with extracurricular activities.

    With a score gap that big, it’s confusing to see why they were dropped. As a hispanic, I feel horrible for them; that they have double standards when applying for universities.

    Maybe it’s not that universities are picking racially, but that they have raised standards for certain races. So it’s not that they don’t want Whites or Asians in their schools, but they simply have higher standards for them since, well, statistically those two races tend to actually score the highest compared to the others.

    • March 28, 2013 at 12:05 am #

      Jason. Thanks for your comments. Amongst the many lessons from Fisher is that its always better to work from data than guesswork. Sometimes our gut feelings can lead us astray.

  4. July 21, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    Reblogged this on The Nerdy Scholarship Guru and commented:
    This pretty much clears things up…
    If a university does not accepts you into their college, it’s not due to the color of your skin.

    Think about IT, if the same university of your choice accepted even an 1% of any other applicants of your same race; then that proves your race has nothing to do with your denied application.

    Check your stats and remember each and every year college admissions is only to get more tougher, so prepare yourself!

    I am a low-income, first generation student who live in an single parent hold for the majority of my life cleaning houses along beside with my immigrant mother; in order to overcome the rent & bills. From the age of eight my father abandoned my family and fled off to Africa never to be found…
    Yet, I still found time to volunteer over thousands of hours to my community in various of ways, excel in many school organizations, rank the top 2% of my high school, and maintain a GPA above a 4.0.

    I was never “babied” when it came to life; because that’s reality, so WORK HARD FOR IT!

    I was accepted into The university of Texas; due to the top 7% automatic ruling.
    Eventually, I declined admissions due to their lack of grants within their financial aid package that they have provided me, and decided to attend another college that fit me best individually; while having the resources I need as a low-income/ first generation student provided at Pitzer College.

    Students don’t become another Abigail Fisher, because there’s lots out there already…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Entitlement by “race”: What Abigail Fisher didn’t tell you… | Patrick S. De Walt, M.B.A., Ph.D. - March 20, 2013

    [...] Entitlement by "race": What Abigail Fisher didn't tell you…. [...]

  2. “Merit” Apartheid: Forces Determined to Segregate Higher Education? | Cloaking Inequity - May 3, 2013

    [...] first front is the US Supreme Court. I wrote in Entitlement by “race”: What Abigail Fisher didn’t tell you… that despite data to the [...]

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