AUSTIN – We are here to check on The University of Texas at Austin. Why? Because the U.S. Supreme Court is doing the same thing. Again. For 20 years the Forty Acres has been in a contest with the courts over its admissions policies, i.e., can race be part of the mix in determining who is allowed to enroll here and spend four years, at least, drinking beer, attending football games and lording it over lesser beings.
Just when we thought it had all been settled and we could stop paying lawyers, along comes Abigail Fisher, an applicant denied admission in 2008 who said she was discriminated against because of her race — she’s white. She charged that some minorities with worse grades got in.
As we all know, UT has a plan whereby any Texas student who finishes in the top 10 percent of his or her graduating high school class is automatically admitted. This opens the door for minorities who have mediocre SATs because they attended mediocre schools. Good, but it is also blatantly unfair to all sorts of brilliant, beautiful and fun-loving high school grads who finish in the bottom 10 percent, like me.
These goodie two-shoes have pretty well taken over the 50,000-plus enrollment, making up an astounding three-quarters of the in-state students. To select the remaining quarter, which the U.S. Supreme Court will consider, the school uses a “holistic review” including test scores, essays, activities, socioeconomic status, cultural background — and race and ethnicity.
As a result of all this mixing of stats and opinions (does the activity of curling count as much as stalking?), this year’s freshman class of 7,000 students is 46 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian and 6 percent black with 5 percent “other.” This is no more a true reflection of Texas youth than the Longhorns’ Young Republicans or their basketball team. These figures are further skewered by UT’s policy allowing illegal immigrants, under certain conditions, to pay in-state tuition. Every seat in every classroom they fill means that the legal child of some Texan couldn’t get in.
It was Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice who once observed, “Texas is divided into two kinds of people – those who went to UT and those who wish they had.” A main reason so many Texas high school grads want to go to UT is not the distinguished profs (who are unknown because they never teach) and/or fellow students. It’s the UT panache, the reputation, the parties on East Sixth Street. College Magazine named UT the nation’s Number One school for sex. But the school dropped from first (2010) to fifth place (2011) as the best party school in America, as judged by Playboy. No doubt parents found this exhilarating as they sold their left kidneys to pay tuition.
Another attraction is that Longhorn High is a Tier 1 university which means whatever someone wants it to mean. For example, the University of Houston desperately wants to join UT, A&M and Rice as a Tier 1 school, and recently the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching said UH had been categorized as a research university with “very high research activity,” which the Cougars claim is the equivalent of Tier 1 status. No other ranking agency has followed, but UH is telling everyone it’s now with the big boys.
We have lots of state schools. They just don’t have the attraction of UT. So at each one we build a 106,000-seat stadium, pay the head football coach $6 million a year, land a presidential library or two and by all means add an East Sixth Street. Then UT-Brownsville or Texas A&M-Commerce has the same attraction as the Forty Acres, and the our high school grads will be fighting to get into those schools.
For the youngsters who still want to go to Austin to school, but can’t get in, I present the Wyoming Syndrome: pandering to the school’s hell-bent rush to be “diversified.” That is the buzz word in academe these days. They never use code terms like “quotas,” “level playing field” and “making up for past sins.” No, the secret password is “diversity.” Every school likes to say it has a diverse student body. “We have students from all 254 Texas counties, all 50 states, 187 countries and Mars, and 49 ethnic groups,” they say in their brochures which contain photos of diverse faces that look like the U.N. Security Council.
There is always one photograph of a concerned full professor giving one‑on‑one attention to a freshman. Notice that it is the same professor in every single brochure -‑ he’s an inflatable figure with a clip‑on beard and is about as close as a freshman will ever get to a concerned full professor.
When applying to UT, put down that you are from Wyoming, the state with the smallest population and no doubt the fewest students going out of state. If that seems a stretch, make your hometown Mentone in Loving County, Texas. It is the least populated county in the nation (82), and the chance of any student making it to Austin is minimal. You are a Serbian-Taiwanese with a Tibetan grandmother and speak Navaho. In one fell swoop you plug in several vacancies the Dean of Admissions has been seeking.
Religion is another source for entry. Universities like to boast of every possible religion to show the school isn’t prejudiced. On the other hand, Notre Dame quarterbacks still call their signals in Latin to draw Protestants offside. Oh, that reminds me. Forget all these tips if you can dribble or punt. If only Abigail Fisher could have performed a decent slam dunk we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Finally, “The” is part of the school’s name, but there is no sane reason to add “Austin.” Everyone knows where it is. But UT is best known as The University, and justifiably so. Only now we can call it The Diversity of Texas at Cheyenne.
Ashby hooks ‘em at firstname.lastname@example.org