Some numbers on UT-Austin (2011, from collegeboard.com):
Total undergraduates: 38,437
Total applicants: 32,589
Based on these, the admit rate is 47% of applicants, which is highly selective according to College Board.
The racial breakdown of the student body is listed as 48% white, 21% Latino/Hispanic, 18% Asian, and 5% African-American. 91% of its population is made up of in-state residents.
I've come across a few thought-provoking articles and they're all worth a read--
From New American Media: Fate of Affirmative Action Hangs on Fisher v. Univ. of Texas
A tie vote would mean that the University of Texas wins, but a tie doesn’t have the same precedential value as a majority five-three decision. Likely to back Texas would be Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, and Sotomayor. I think these three are fairly safe predictions. As the court’s health care decision shows, you can never be sure what’s going to happen. Nobody expected Justice Roberts to be the savior of Obama’s health care. So you don’t want to say you can be sure, but if you look at what the justices have written in the past, the remaining justices are skeptical of affirmative action. Sometimes people vote for what they’re skeptical of, but one of those five would have to change for Texas to win [by getting a four-four vote].From the New York Times: Play Close Attention to the Supreme Court This Week
Among the reasons that nearly every public or private college or university utilizes racial preferences in admissions – other than in states like California where voters have banned the practice – is the belief that students learn at least as much from their classmates as their professors, and that a broadly diverse student body creates an educational environment most conducive to learning.From the Washington Post (opinion): Why race matters in college admission
As a practical matter, we do not understand how a rule forbidding all consideration of race could possibly be enforced. Essays and letters of recommendation are critical components of the application process at law schools. They allow us to evaluate intangible virtues such as courage, commitment and moral compass. In their personal statements, many applicants discuss how race has influenced their lives. Writers of recommendations frequently mention race in explaining how an applicant has overcome challenges. Would those advocating race-blind admissions have us censor the statements of applicants and their recommenders? How could we carry out such a task, even if we were inclined to do so?Also from the Washington Post: Supreme Court considers about-face on racial preferences in college admissions in Texas case
The case also raises several contentious side issues, including whether affirmative-action programs hurt the very people they are supposed to be helping. A new book by law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor argues that “large preferences often place students in environments where they can neither learn nor compete effectively, even though these same students would thrive had they gone to less competitive but still quite good schools.”
I don't envy the decisions any admissions office has to make. Every student has a story and a case to admit could probably be made for each one. My point is only this-- admissions is a maddening process. Sometimes policies make sense, sometimes they don't. We don't always get the answer we want. The process isn't always fair. I know Ms. Fisher wants this to be about an applicant's merits, and on the surface I believe that to be true. Yet... if it were that simple why would colleges ask for essays, recommendations, extracurricular activities? Why wouldn't they solely consider test scores and grades? Because it's not that simple. And after tomorrow's arguments, the whole process could get turned on its head.