Lily-whites under fire

April 12, 1996

The shock waves continue to spread from the decision by a United States appeals court to throw out the University of Texas's affirmative action programmes, designed to boost the enrolment of minority students.

Critics of the ruling, which barred the university from considering race in the admissions process, claimed it could restore the "lily-white" universities of the 1950s and lead to resegregation.

Raising the stakes, Texas attorney general Dan Morales confirmed that he will appeal the Fifth Circuit court's decision to the Supreme Court. And the near- legendary appeals' attorney Lawrence Tribe, sometimes dubbed the "Tenth Justice" by his admirers, will help Texas argue the politically charged case before the nine-member court.

Since the 1960s most universities have adopted measures to open doors to minority students. Some combine a wide range of affirmative action programmes and minority scholarships, and are potentially at risk if the Supreme Court upholds the Texas judgment.

The Fifth Circuit court ruled in favour of four white students who sued Texas for damages after they were denied admission, allegedly in favour of minority students with lower grades. Its ruling only covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

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