I’m sure you’ve heard of Abigail Fisher. And if you have, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing about her. She’s like the cricket in the house who just won’t get the f–k out already.
Fisher is the young woman with the ongoing discrimination lawsuit against The University of Texas at Austin, which she filed in 2008. She claimed that she was denied admission to the elite university, and was passed over while UT accepted other students based on their race. Students she deemed less qualified. As part of the admissions process, the University applies both an Academic Index, which focuses on the grades, activities and essays of a student, as well as a Personal Achievement Index, which considers the family background, socioeconomic status, and yes, race.
Fisher once said, “There were people in my class with lower grades who weren’t in all the activities I was in, who were being accepted into UT, and the only difference between us was the color of our skin.”
What activities was she in you ask? Well, the orchestra. She was “an accomplished cellist” according to CNN, who was president of her high school orchestra. And Fisher volunteered at a nursing home and with Habitat for Humanity.
Her GPA was reportedly 3.59, putting her in the top 12 percent of her class while her SAT was an 1180 according to the Dallas Observer. There has been no discussion of whether or not her GPA was a weighted one due to AP courses.
Fisher believed that it was the increase in the admission of people of color who she assumed didn’t do as much and didn’t have the same grades as her that held her back. And that is why she has been fighting to win her case since 2008, despite losing twice. She kept appealing, and the Supreme Court is presiding over her case yet again, with arguments having started this week. If she were to finally win her case, Fisher would get her $100 application fee back–and possibly be the catalyst for the end of the use of affirmative action in college admissions…
But I really need her to let that hurt go. And I know it’s hard. Her father went to the school, her sister did as well. And as she said in a video released by her lawyers, “I dreamt of going to UT ever since the second grade.” But she didn’t get in, and that s–t happened more than seven years ago. Plenty of people, some more qualified than Fisher, are rejected from universities for a myriad of reasons every year, and they don’t cry about it, let alone sue anybody. They recognize that they may not have had what it takes for that particular institution and realize that it wasn’t the place for them after all. Trust me, I know.
I applied to the University of Texas at Austin years before Fisher did. As you already know, I’m from Illinois, but my mother was born and raised in Austin. All my relatives from my mother’s side lived down there and in Houston as well as Dallas. And while none of them went to UT, I wanted to go. Interested in magazine journalism, UT’s communications program is a pretty stellar one. I had already made up a dream plan of getting in, staying in my grandmother’s home in Austin, and driving to my classes from her home. I imagined what it would be like to check out campus parties and athletic events, and what it would be like to say that I graduated from UT when all my hard work was done.
But I didn’t get in. Despite having a GPA of more than a 4.0 (and I had taken a few AP courses, including AP English and History), graduating as the 11th student out of 250, being involved in an array of activities, including being on the board for my school’s chapter of the National Honor Society, playing volleyball (all-area, all-state honorable mention), basketball (Varsity by my sophomore year), being on prom court junior year and all that fancy jazz you put in essays and on applications, I was sent a letter of rejection. I was reminded, via my rejection letter, that UT’s Top 10 Law shows favoritism to Texas students, allowing anyone within the top 10 percent of their class at a Texas high school to be admitted. The year Fisher applied, 92 percent of the incoming freshman class were brought in by that law, leaving the last eight percent to be picked in an extraordinarily competitive fashion. Considering that she was in the top 12 percent, that’s most likely why she was rejected.
The year I was rejected I could have cried and fussed and sued about the Top 10 Law. And I could have cried and fussed and made up a bogus lawsuit when I was rejected from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill too. But I’m Black. I don’t have the privilege to do all that unnecessary and expensive s–t. So instead, I unpacked all my hopes and plans about attending both schools, accepted that I’d lost about $200 in application fees, sucked it up and carried on.
I had also applied to the University of Maryland at College Park around the same time, as well as Indiana University and the University of Missouri at Columbia and got into all three. After doing campus visits and looking over financial aid packages, I chose Mizzou. Yes, that Mizzou. I was one of the six percent of Black people on that entire lily White campus. And I don’t know if me being Black had a great deal to do with my admission (you know, diversity), but I know I excelled greatly at the University. I made the most of my opportunity at the first and No. 1 journalism program in the world, even through the early rumblings of racial discord on campus (i.e., the cotton balls strewn in front of the Black Culture Center), even restarting a publication for Black students on campus. I moved on from UT because I had no choice, and by doing so, I was able to do greater things.
I also moved on because I realized that my inadequacies had nothing to do with who was admitted over me and why. I knew that my ACT score wasn’t as high as it could have been (thanks a lot, math!). I knew I could have done more volunteer work. I knew that my high school was not a respected institution due to low test scores and had been told by faculty numerous times that our diplomas “would mean nothing.” While I knew that I was a top-tier student, there were certain things I hadn’t done, and some things I had no control over, that didn’t show UT or UNC that I truly was one.
And that’s Fisher’s problem. She’s embarrassed that she didn’t follow in her family’s footsteps, and so she’s blaming students of color for why she didn’t get in, and would be okay with keeping future students of color from being able to attend UT and other institutions of higher learning. All that instead of just owning the fact that she was just an okay student with an okay GPA, okay SAT score, and okay activities record. She was hoping the Top 10 Law, which is a form of affirmative action, would allow her to measle her way into the school (but she was top 12 percent and didn’t really stand out). When it didn’t, she turned on the racial aspect of the Personal Achievement Index.
Instead of unpacking that reality about her shortcomings, she packed up her privilege, went ahead and sued the school. All while still managing to go to and graduate from another great university (Lousiana State University), and get a great job as a financial analyst that has an average median annual salary of $76,950 (she probably started at around $60k) at 25 years old. There are Black folks out here still looking for jobs after graduating. And yet, she’s still complaining:
“The only thing I missed out on was my post-graduation years. Just being in a network of U.T. graduates would have been a really nice thing to be in. And I probably would have gotten a better job offer had I gone to U.T.”
All assumptions. Her case from start to finish and her mentality now is based on assumptions. And that’s what makes me cringe. This whole thing reeks of privilege. One White woman doesn’t get into the university of her dreams and life as we know it has to change because she’s shedding White tears. Affirmative action used to help students who aren’t given the same advantages as their counterparts, who have been educated in underperforming and underfunded schools, affirmative action that White women have benefited from most, has to go. The highest court in the land has to hear her case again and again. And we have to see her face and hear her story again and again–all over a discrimination, she didn’t face.