In 1992, four White students, including Cheryl Hopwood, filed a lawsuit against the University of Texas, which claimed that they had been denied admission to the law school on the basis of their race. They claimed that their academic credentials were such that they would have been admitted if they had been minority candidates (Thompson & Tobias 2000). In 1994, a ruling was handed down by the District Court in favor of the defendants, protecting the state’s interest in diversity in higher education (Bucks 2003). Upon appeal by the plaintiffs, however, the case became a landmark that would shape policy and debate in Texas for years to come.
On March 18, 1996, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, striking down the use of race based affirmative action programs at the University of Texas. Specifically, the court rejected the school’s upholding of such policies with intention to achieve a diverse student body, ruling that no such “compelling interest” fell within the Fourteenth Amendment (Hopwood v Texas). Diversity, the court said, remains a non‐remedial interest, and racial classification in any form is only permissible in cases of direct rectification of past wrongs.