U. S. Supreme Court

On April 9, the Texas Senate passed SB 1530, a bill filed by Higher Education Committee Chairman Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo. The bill would maintain the cap on students admitted under the Top Ten Percent Rule in the event that the U. S. Supreme Court strikes down UT’s race-conscious holistic admissions policy in the pending case of Fisher v. University of Texas. It also extends the cap from 2015 to 2017. Under existing law, the cap, which mandates that no more than 75 percent of an incoming freshman class can be automatically admitted by the Top Ten Percent Rule, would automatically expire if the Supreme Court deems race-conscious admissions unconstitutional. If that were to happen, almost all of the next incoming freshman class would be admitted based solely on high school rank.

A similar bill filed by House Higher Education Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, awaits a vote on the House floor.

If either bill passes, the governor signs it and the Supreme Court rules against race-conscious admissions, UT’s admissions results will remain much the same. That’s because the holistic element of UT’s admissions policy, despite the claims of both its supporters and critics, does not actually increase minority enrollment.

According to data released last fall by the Office of Admissions, UT admits lower percentages of African-American and Hispanic students through holistic review than through automatic admission. For example, in 2011, 5 percent of the holistic review admits were African-American compared to 6 percent of the automatic admits. More strikingly, 14 percent of holistic review admits were Hispanic, compared to 29 percent under the Top Ten Percent Rule.

The numbers suggest that the demographic that benefits most from the holistic process are mostly white students from wealthier, more competitive high schools where good grades do not guarantee a spot in the top 10 percent of one’s graduating class.

Applicants from outside of Texas are also advantaged under the holistic process. Only 8.3 percent of UT’s entering freshman class was from out of state in 2010, compared to much larger percentages at comparable institutions. If the cap were to expire, that 8.3 percent would dwindle down to almost nothing.

Regardless of one’s personal opinion on affirmative action, a cap is necessary under the current system. All qualified out-of-state students and in-state students from competitive high schools should not be prevented from attending UT, as they would if the cap were to expire. Moreover, an entirely automatic process would take away all of the benefits of a holistic admissions policy, which gives applicants additional ways — such as essays, admissions tests and extracurricular resumes — to prove their merit beyond simple class rank.

During the Senate Higher Education Committee meeting on April 3 at which the bill was sent to the Senate floor, Kedra Ishop, UT’s vice provost and director of admissions, echoed this sentiment, saying the cap “gives us the breathing room to both pursue our highly qualified Top Ten Percent-ers and in addition pursue those students who are not in the top 10 percent but are potentially robust contributors to the campus.”

It is easy to see the University’s rationale for that goal. However, UT still presents its holistic process as a way to increase campus diversity. That perception is inconsistent with the facts.

Seliger’s bill may prove unnecessary if the Supreme Court rules in UT’s favor, but it is a responsible safeguard, as the decision will likely be issued after the Texas legislative session adjourns until 2015. However, the existing admissions policy is itself inadequate as a means to increase campus diversity, and this bill does not change that.

The U. S. Supreme Court hears arguments in two major gay marriage cases this week, and the timing has never been better. Fifty-eight percent of Americans now believe it should be legal for gay and lesbian couples to get married, according to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Fellow proponents of the homosexual agenda, rejoice! The American public, after a long and difficult fight, is suddenly — explosively — coming out for gay marriage.

Capitalizing on that popularity, the Human Rights Campaign — the nation’s largest LGBT advocacy group and lobbying organization — launched its United for Marriage initiative, which encourages those sympathetic to the cause of marriage equality to make public demonstrations of support.

In Austin, 1500 miles away from the oral arguments being heard in Washington, D.C., that support has primarily taken the form of a Facebook profile picture featuring a red equals sign. The mathematical symbol is an allusion to the HRC’s logo. You’re forgiven if you missed the memo; when I checked my Facebook page Tuesday morning, I mistakenly equated the red banners with communism. But once I understood the symbolism, I was touched. The equals signs were everywhere.

Not all recent demonstrations have been so positive, of course. Because this is Texas, some of our most powerful politicians count among the voices in diametric opposition to marriage equality. Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst spoke to that hateful tone at the Texas Faith and Family Day rally at the Capitol on Tuesday.

Perry did not appear to have confused the cyber-inundation of red with a communist uprising as I did, but his comments were nevertheless reminiscent of the Joseph McCarthy era. “The underlying problem is that there’s a very vocal and very litigious minority of Americans willing to legally attack anybody who dares utter a phrase, or even a name, they don’t agree with,” Perry said. “We are also a culture built upon the concept that the original law is God’s law outlined in the Ten Commandments.”

Fortunately, Perry’s views are increasingly out of touch with reality, and I look forward to the day they become obsolete. Marriage equality is on the horizon. But issues beyond gay marriage demand further action by the queer community and its allies, most notably workplace discrimination and issues faced by the transgender community. The Supreme Court isn’t expected to reach a decision until late June, which leaves pro-equality Facebook users three months to find a new, flattering picture of themselves. They might additionally consider promoting any other of the equally valid causes that have received less attention.

Decades from now, when my children ask me what this time of history felt like, I will proudly recall the demonstrations my friends — gay and straight — made in support of marriage equality. I just hope their enthusiasm won’t have stopped there.

Walters is a Plan II junior from Houston.