Texas Higher Education Lacks Racial Diversity, Report Finds
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Society of American Law Teachers
José Roberto Juárez, Jr.
Equal Justice Society
Americans for a Fair Chance/Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund
A new report documents the continuing lack of racial and ethnic diversity at Texas A&M, the University of Texas at Austin, and within Texas law and medical schools, despite many energetic efforts to try race-neutral alternatives.
The report, titled “Blend It, Don’t End It: Affirmative Action and the Texas Ten Percent Plan After Grutter and Gratz,” is authored by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), Americans for a Fair Chance (a project of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund), the Equal Justice Society, and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT). The authors of the report share an interest in aligning admissions criteria to the state’s goal of closing the racial and ethnic gaps in higher education so as to ensure all Texans are prepared to become qualified and active contributors to our economy.
Norma Cantú, professor of education and law at UT-Austin, former Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights, and MALDEF Board Member, presented the report to the Texas Senate along with MALDEF attorney and Texas state policy analyst Luis Figueroa. Cantú argued, “The report illustrates that calls to terminate or cap the Ten Percent Plan would erode opportunities for many qualified disadvantaged students, and would undermine flagship universities’ accountability to serve all sectors of Texas.”
MALDEF regional counsel Nina Perales commented on the continued need for affirmative action: “We urge Texas A&M officials to rethink their decision to reject using race as a plus factor in admissions.” She added, “A&M says it hopes to increase diversity with race-neutral outreach, but they have tried that approach for many years now and they are still running into a brick wall.” The report found that under the Ten Percent Plan, A&M enrollments for African Americans and Latinos in 2003 were still one-third lower than in 1995, before affirmative action was discontinued
SALT co-president and St. Mary’s law professor José (Beto) Juárez stated, “The Supreme Court’s recent Grutter v. Bollinger ruling recognizes that student diversity creates educational benefits that ‘are not theoretical but real.'” Juárez explained, “This report is needed because universities in Texas must rigorously evaluate the effectiveness of their previous race-neutral policies before restarting affirmative action programs.”
Michael A. Olivas, a law professor at the University of Houston and co-author of the Ten Percent Plan legislation, said, “I believe that ‘blend it, don’t end it’ is a wise approach, surely preferable to the Texas A&M approach, which declined to employ Grutter and originally included the Aggie Legacy points until they were embarrassed into ending the point system. Texas colleges need to build on the Ten Percent Plan’s contribution to socioeconomic and geographic diversity at the flagship universities.”
Olivas added, “At the same time, it is also clear that much more needs to be done to increase racial diversity, especially in Texas professional schools and graduate programs.” For example, only 3.3% of Texas medical degrees went to African Americans, less than half of the national average. Without affirmative action at the UT Law School (1997-2003), African American enrollments dropped by nearly three-fifths compared to 1990-95, and Mexican American enrollments dropped by over one-quarter.
Wade Henderson, General Counsel for the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund stated, “Affirmative action continues to be an essential tool to give qualified individuals equal access to opportunities in higher education. The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, through the Americans for a Fair Chance project, will continue to work with Texas institutions of higher education as they strive to advance equal opportunity for all students.”
William Kidder of the Equal Justice Society explained, “Our findings challenge the unwarranted claims by the Bush Administration’s Department of Education, which appears determined to scare universities away from constitutionally permissible forms of affirmative action regardless of the evidence.”
The “Blend It, Don’t End It” report may be downloaded at the following websites: