The statue of George Washington outside the University of Texas at Austin Main Building on July 16, 2020.

Credit: Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune

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A national organization’s latest attempt to sue the University of Texas at Austin over its admissions policy that the group claims “improperly considers race” has been tossed out of a federal court, with the judge ruling the group cannot bring back its case against the university.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of two white students who applied to UT-Austin’s 2018 and 2019 freshman classes, accused the university of discriminating and denying applicants admissions based on race. This is not the first time the group, Students for Fair Admissions, have brought forth a civil suit targeting UT-Austin’s affirmative action policy, with previous attempts also proving unsuccessful.

In the ruling, which was signed Monday by federal Judge Robert Pitman of the Western District of Texas, the court states that plaintiffs brought similar arguments that were already made in a prior case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court twice. In those cases, the courts upheld UT-Austin’s admissions policies.

“The alleged changes that [Students for Fair Admissions] brings forward about UT’s admissions program do not rise to the level of being ‘significant’ such that they ‘create ‘new legal conditions,’ that would allow for relitigation of these claims,” Pitman wrote.

Defendants in the lawsuit included members of UT System Board of Regents, Chancellor James B. Milliken and UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell. The university has not returned requests for comment concerning the ruling.

Students for Fair Admissions’s website says it’s a nonprofit group of “more than 20,000 students, parents, and others who believe that racial classifications and preferences in college admissions are unfair, unnecessary, and unconstitutional.”

A similar 2018 case filed in state court from the group that challenged the university’s admission policies was dropped in 2020. SFFA’s president, Edward Blum, was also behind the high profile U.S. Supreme Court case, Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, where justices ruled 4-3, rejecting the claim of Abigail Fisher that she was denied admission from UT-Austin because she was white. The ruling upheld the university’s admissions policies: which include admitting 75% of its new freshman class through its top 6% percent rule — where automatic acceptance is offered to high school students who graduate at the top of their class — and admitting the rest of its students through a holistic review where race is considered a factor, which has been university practice since 2003.

Students for Fair Admissions also have also brought forth lawsuits against officials of Harvard University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 2019, a federal judge upheld Harvard’s admissions policy, and most recently the U.S. Supreme Court has held off in taking up the case. The lawsuit against UNC-Chapel Hill is still ongoing.

In a statement, Blum said Students for Fair Admissions was “disappointed” in the court’s decision, but looks “forward to having that decision reviewed and reversed by the Fifth Circuit of Appeals.”

Disclosure: University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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