A National Coalition of Black Male Achievement Initiatives urges the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions procedures of the University of Texas at Austin (UT)

COLUMBUS, OH, AUGUST 13, 2012 – Today a national Coalition of Black Male Achievement Initiatives (BMI) filed an amicus (“friend of the Court”) brief at the United States Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas, a high profile college admissions case to be heard by the Court next term.  

The BMI brief urges the Supreme Court to examine the low numbers of African American males currently enrolled at selective colleges and universities before deciding whether to prevent admissions officers from considering race along with other aspects of an applicant’s biography when putting together a diverse entering class. Studies of college diversity rarely uncouple information about a student’s race or ethnicity from his gender, the BMI brief notes.  This obscures the fact that—even with the use of holistic race-conscious review—the numbers of African American males currently enrolled at selective universities are already stunningly low.

The BMI brief urges the Supreme Court to uphold the admissions procedures of the University of Texas at Austin (UT) which permit admissions officials to consider race along with a number of other factors when putting together a diverse entering class.  Abigail Fisher challenged the constitutionality of those procedures after being denied admission, claiming she was rejected due to her race (Fisher is white).  The BMI brief was filed along with dozens of others, making the case one of the most heavily briefed cases in Supreme Court history.

The BMI brief notes that only 1.79% of the full-time students enrolled in UT’s 2009 fall entering class were Black males (129 out of 7,199). The elimination of race-conscious admissions procedures will make this crisis even worse, the BMIs argue.

Beyond UT’s interest in student body diversity, the brief also urges the Supreme Court to recognize that states have an interest in addressing the harmful effects of racial isolation and the severely disadvantaged social conditions that surround and negatively impact the lives of many of their African American residents.  African Americans continue to be disproportionately isolated from educational, economic and social opportunity to a degree not experienced by any other racial or ethnic group, the BMI brief argues, and states have a compelling interest in reducing conditions that impair the equal opportunity for advancement of their residents.  Failure to address such social conditions imperils the well-being of all of a state’s residents, the BMIs assert.

[Download BMI brief - PDF]

[gview file="http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/docs/BMI%20BRIEF.pdf" height="600" width="950"]

Background

The 2025 National Network for Black Men & Boys took a leading role in organizing the signatories for the brief, which include over 50 individuals, entities and associations working in the area of Black male achievement and diversity in higher education. http://www.2025bmb.org/

Shawn Mooring, 2025 Network Manager, explained the decision to file a brief specifically addressing the need to keep college doors open to Black males:  “The brief is a complement to the 2025 Network’s “We Dream a World” initiative published in 2010,” Moore said, “a call to action for America to begin to address the barriers to quality education that hinder Black men and boys. It lays out a comprehensive agenda of reform that, if implemented, will significantly change the life trajectory of Black men and boys.”

Rhonda Bryant, Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, one of the fifty-plus signatories to the brief, said: “I think the larger message is that black males have equal ability to learn as their white counterparts, but their journeys have been impeded by inequities in the American educational system. As such, their educational biographies may not appear by traditional measures to be as strong as those of white students. Given that these social inequities still exist, it is important to retain race-conscious college admission processes that can look beyond just grades or SAT scores to see the inherent ability of black males to succeed at the collegiate level, and to admit them.”

The 2025 Network worked closely with the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity at Ohio State, which gathered the social science evidence for the brief and helped to construct its major arguments.

Sharon Davies, the John C. Elam/Vorys Sater Professor of Law at the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University and Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute, took a leading role drafting the amicus brief for the BMIs, with the help of several members of Kirwan’s staff, including Brookes Hammock, Cheryl Staats, Jason Reece, Christy Rogers and Tom Rudd.  Tracie Ransom, a Senior Associate with Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP in Columbus, OH, also participated in drafting the brief and served as Counsel of Record for the BMIs.