Chancellor’s statement on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin

June 24, 2013

On Monday, June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case considering the constitutionality of UT Austin's admissions policy.

In a 7-1 vote, the court vacated the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judgment in favor of UT Austin, but sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The justices did not overrule any of the seminal cases on the use of race in admissions, including Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003, heard in conjunction with Gratz).

Initial analysis by UW-Madison lawyers indicates that the ruling appears to be narrowly tailored to address UT Austin’s policies; it does not appear to require any immediate change in current admission processes. UW-Madison will continue to monitor the Fisher case as it continues through the court system.

On Monday, June 17, Interim Chancellor David Ward released the following statement in a mass email to members of the UW-Madison community.

“Like many universities around the country, UW-Madison awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, a case considering the constitutionality of UT Austin’s admissions policy. This case addressed whether a university may consider racial and ethnic diversity as one factor among many in assembling a well-qualified college class.

“In anticipation of this decision, I wanted to share my thoughts and plans.

“When making decisions involving admission to undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, UW-Madison considers academic credentials the most important factor — a critical component when considering a student’s potential for success at a highly competitive university.

“However, test scores and class rank cannot always predict classroom success. Nor can participation in extracurricular activities predict whether a student will successfully manage the transition from home and high school to a world-class university community of more than 50,000 people.

“For these reasons, it is imperative for UW-Madison to perform a comprehensive review of an applicant’s entire record. This process, known in higher education as holistic admissions, takes a wide range of factors into account.

“Our undergraduate admissions professionals examine all academic coursework, written statements, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities and optional letters of recommendation. We also look for leadership or any special gifts or talents that a student could bring to enrich our university.

“No student is accepted solely due to any non-academic factor. Every student offered a place at this university is judged to be capable of success.

“As an institution, we will work together to determine what the Fisher decision means to our programs and practices. Campus leaders will review the scope of this ruling; however, the process of sifting through the nuances of the court’s decision may take time.

“Our commitment to diversity has not wavered. Diversity of viewpoints and perspectives drives our educational experience.

“Full engagement by all members of the UW-Madison community enhances the impact of our teaching and the depth of our research. It prepares students to navigate the challenges of an increasingly interconnected world, providing economic and social benefits for all who participate.

“For these reasons, and more, we celebrate what a diverse student body brings to UW-Madison. Abandoning this commitment would compromise our academic mission, limit the experience of our students and diminish the overall quality of our university.”