Brennan Center Urges Supreme Court to Recognize Benefits of Diversity in Higher Education

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–August 13, 2012.  The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the League of Women Voters of the United States filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court today, urging the Court to uphold the University of Texas at Austin’s admissions policies, including the university’s reasonable efforts to encourage diversity in its classrooms.

The university’s nuanced admissions program, which considers race as one of many factors in its review of student applications, is under attack in a case called Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. Abigail Fisher, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, argues that race should not be considered in the admissions process, even though the university’s individualized admissions process was designed specifically to comply with past Supreme Court cases.

The Center’s amicus brief urges the Court to recognize that diversity in higher education is crucial for the success of our multi-racial democracy.

“Ever since Brown v. Board of Education, the Court has held that the creation of diverse educational settings strengthens our nation’s democratic institutions,” said Inimai Chettiar, Director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. “Many young people learn to be engaged citizens in the classrooms of public universities across the country. Ensuring diversity in these classrooms is critical to our nation’s effort to end racial segregation and inequality, which continue to persist.”

“One of the League’s primary goals is to promote an open governmental system that is representative, accountable, and responsive and that assures opportunities for citizen participation in government decision-making,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national President of the League of Women Voters. “The League joined the brief in Fisher v. UT Austin because since its inception the League of Women Voters has fought to ensure that every citizen can fully and productively participate in American society, from the school room to the ballot box. We believe that increased racial and ethnic educational diversity like that provided by the UT Admissions program promotes democratic values and benefits all students.”

The brief relies on social science research, including work previously cited by the Court, to explain that a diverse education benefits all students, regardless of their race. Diverse classrooms and universities are proven to enhance students’ leadership skills, increase their social and political engagement, and promote the cross-racial tolerance and collaborative spirit needed in our democratic civil society.

The brief was authored with pro bono counsel at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.