AUSTIN, Texas—The University of Texas at Austin said today (Nov. 27) it would not file any further appeals in the Hopwood case. The decision ends a decade-long case that eliminated the consideration of race in admitting students at the university’s School of Law and other higher education institutions in Texas.
The university said it would not appeal the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, would pay court costs and pay the plaintiffs about $1,170,000 for court-ordered attorney fees. The plaintiffs will receive none of the other relief they had sought, including admission to the School of Law.
"The issues in this case are of enormous importance to the nation," said Larry R. Faulkner, president of The University of Texas at Austin. "Since the Hopwood decision, the university has labored under law that does not apply throughout the United States. This case is not binding on higher education institutions except in the 5th Circuit — Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
"We vigorously pursued appeals, arguing the complex issues surrounding affirmative action, to resolve these important issues for the nation at large. The Hopwood case will clearly not be the one that leads to this resolution. It is now impossible to take another appeal on the merits of affirmative action in the context of the Hopwood case, and given that impossibility, we have decided not to further appeal the award of court costs and attorneys’ fees.
"The University of Texas at Austin has not lost sight of its goal of effectively serving all populations of Texas. We continue to look for new methods to do that. Prior to the Hopwood decision, we effectively used affirmative action programs to pursue the twin goals of academic excellence and a diverse student population. The results were of great benefit to our state. Since the Hopwood decision, we have invented new ways to build participation of talented minority students on a color-blind basis, and we think we have some of the best programs in the country."
Charles Miller, chairman of the University of Texas System Board of Regents, said ending the Hopwood case is in the best interests of the university and the state because it is clear the case will not lead to a definitive, nationwide policy on affirmative action.
"We continue to seek a level playing field as institutions within the UT System compete nationwide for highly qualified students," Miller said. "The ending of the Hopwood case leaves Texas universities at an unfortunate disadvantage in this competition, but it is clearly time to move on and to hope for a fair resolution of these issues in a different legal setting. The Board of Regents and the UT System remain committed to broad access to higher education by students of all backgrounds."
R.D. Burck, chancellor of the UT System, said, "The University of Texas at Austin and the UT System pursued the Hopwood case vigorously and exhausted all avenues of appeal. Closing the books on this case brings to an end a protracted and difficult legal battle, but our commitment to an expansion of educational opportunity for all Texans remains unchanged. We will continue to pursue programs and policies that seek to enhance access to a university education."
University officials thanked the law firm of Vinson and Elkins of Houston for its extensive pro bono work in representing the university in the case. They also acknowledged the efforts of the offices of the state attorney general and solicitor general.
"Vinson and Elkins made its resources available to us from the very beginning of this long legal fight, and we could not have pursued the case so vigorously without their help," Faulkner said. "Their assistance to the university in this case has been a public service of great value to the university and the people of Texas."
The case challenging admissions policies at The University of Texas at Austin School of Law began in 1992 when law school applicant Cheryl Hopwood and others sued the university, claiming they were denied admission because the law school gave preferential consideration to black and Mexican-American applicants.
U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ruled in 1994 that the law school could consider race in admission to maintain diverse enrollment or remedy past discrimination. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision in 1996, ruling that any consideration of race, even as one factor among many is unconstitutional. As a result of the court’s ruling, all affirmative action programs involving race and ethnicity in admission ended at public universities in Texas in June 1996. The state of Texas twice petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, but the court declined to hear the case.