From the Office of State Senator Royce West - District 23

For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Kelvin Bass
(512) 463-0123
June 24, 2003

Senator West says Supreme Court ruling is critical to higher education in Texas

DALLAS -- Monday's Supreme Court ruling on the University of Michigan Law School and undergraduate admissions programs could have a significant affect on higher education in Texas and throughout the nation said State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas). In separate decisions, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the policy used by the University of Michigan Law School does not violate 14th Amendment protections by using race as a factor in admissions. But a second court decision overturns the use of the university's use of a point system.

"At a time when national debate has taken a renewed look at the legality and usefulness of affirmative action programs, the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly delineated it's position on the issue of diversity in higher education," said Senator West, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education. "Much like the 1978 Bakke Decision, justices returned to a ruling that frowns on the use of quotas, but allows that race can be used in advancing the cause of diversity on college campuses."

The Supreme Court's decision should have a dramatic impact on higher education in Texas. A 1996 Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Hopwood v. State effectively ended the use of race as a consideration in college admissions in Texas. Arguments on the Michigan cases began in April of this year after attracting even more attention when President Bush, in a December 2002 speech, criticized the University of Michigan's use of what his attorneys, in later court briefings, called an "unconstitutional quota system."

"Even with the creation of the Top 10 Rule by the Legislature, Texas' colleges and universities have grappled with the effects of the Hopwood Decision," said Senator West."Some of our best and brightest minority students left home to attend college in states that did not impose such restrictions. Many, having completed their education, have not returned. We must stop the brain drain. Just as our state demographer has said, Texas must educate more of its minority students if it is to remain competitive in a society where the workplace is becoming more and more dependent on technology."

In the closing hours of the 78th Legislative Session, Senator West used a parliamentary procedure to kill a bill that would have limited admissions under the Top 10 Percent Rule. His concern was that the public and lawmakers should have a greater say in laws that would further diminish the ability of students to access higher education. Separate legislation passed that will deregulate college tuition, and the University of Michigan cases were yet to be decided.