Abigail Fisher is a young white woman now in her early 20s who applied to the University of Texas. She was denied admission after an exhaustive admissions process and a final decision. Fisher then sued the University of Texas on the basis of her race being a bar to admission.
She seeks redress under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Her case reached the United States Supreme Court and was granted Certiorari earlier this year. The 14th Amendment provides Fisher with equal protection under the law.
Also, affirmative action laws seek to redress discrimination not specifically ameliorated under the existing Civil Rights laws. At bottom, affirmative action laws seek to level the playing field for all Americans.
The University of Texas has an exhaustive admissions policy which requires four years of high school English, four years of math, and four years of science, as well as three and a half years of a foreign language. Candidates must submit writing samples and achieve a minimum threshold score on the SAT or ACT exam. Fisher's scores were slightly under their admissions requirement.
There is automatic admission for students within the top 10% of their graduating high school class. Fisher's grades were in the top 12% which is slightly under the threshold. Accordingly, she was also denied admission under the "automatic criteria." Being in the top 10% of the high school graduating class is a very fluid criterion because schools differ in the level of difficulty of the subject matter taught.
In addition, there are differences between grades in an honors course versus the standard course available to all students. For instance, grades in Spanish 4 would be weighed as heavily as Advanced Placement Spanish 4. In addition, students may take college credits in high school. A student taking Earth Science in the last year of high school would not face the same level of difficulty as a student taking Collegiate Physics in high school.
The University of Texas has a waiting list which students can apply for if they are not admitted. The waiting list has 300 seats. Most institutions have waiting lists because some students who receive acceptance letters may choose to attend another institution.
The sequential order of the waiting list is not dispositive. The University may consider space openings in accordance with seats available in specific academic major courses of study and not the sequential order of the list.