American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
December 2015
Volume 
43
Issue 
8

ASA Joins AERA et al. in Fisher v. UT-Austin Amicus

United States Supreme Court

United States Supreme Court

The American Sociological Association joined the American Educational Research Association (AERA) along with eight other scientific societies in filing an amicus curiae brief in the U.S. Supreme Court’s reconsideration of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. The scientific societies urge the court to consider an overwhelming body of scientific evidence relevant to the case. The court heard oral arguments in the case on December 9. Below is a shortened version of the AERA press release.

 

The co-signers of the brief are the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Anthropological Association, the American Political Science Association, the American Sociological Association, the American Statistical Association, the Association for the Study of Higher Education, the Law and Society Association, the Linguistic Society of America, and the National Academy of Engineering.

Numerous studies demonstrate that student body diversity leads to important educational benefits, such as the reduction of prejudice; growth in cognitive abilities, critical thinking skills, and self-confidence.

This is the second time that the Fisher case has gone to the U.S. Supreme Court. The case was initiated in 2008 as a challenge to the university’s policy of using race as a factor in admissions decisions. In 2013, the court ruled that a lower court did not apply the correct legal standards under the Constitution, and sent the case back to lower courts.

Accordingly, the AERA et al. brief provides summaries and citations of pertinent studies to aid the court’s deliberations on (1) whether student body diversity remains a compelling governmental interest and (2) whether the policy is narrowly tailored.

The brief lays out the research evidence demonstrating that diversity leads to important educational benefits and prevents the harms of racial isolation. Numerous studies demonstrate that student body diversity leads to important educational benefits, such as the reduction of prejudice; growth in cognitive abilities, critical thinking skills, and self-confidence; the promotion of civic engagement and skills needed for professional development and leadership; and improved classroom environments and curricula.

The brief also covers how recent research addresses key issues raised by the plaintiff in Fisher, such as how institutions must rely on context to determine the “critical mass” of students necessary to promote diversity and how pursuing diversity along multiple dimensions, including socioeconomic status, can help advance racial and ethnic diversity and an institution’s overall mission.

Finally, the AERA et al. brief summarizes research showing that race-conscious policies are necessary to achieve diversity and that race-neutral policies, such as the top-10-percent plan or policies that replace race-conscious measures with class-based preferences, are, by themselves, insufficient for advancing a diversity interest.

The Supreme Court will release its decision before the summer of 2016. For more information, visit www.aera.net/EducationResearch/LinkingResearchtoPublicInterest/AmicusBriefs/FishervsUniversityofTexasAustin/PressBriefing/tabid/13378/Default.aspx.