A profile of ex-student who’s challenging university’s affirmative action policy

Posted at 3:07 PM, Jun 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-24 15:07:05-04

By Michael Pearson

(CNN) — The young woman at the center of the Supreme Court challenge to the University of Texas’ affirmative action policy was a good high school student, an accomplished musician and a frequent volunteer, according to information released by her legal team.

When Abigail Noel Fisher filed the lawsuit challenging the rejection of her application to the school in 2008, she was a senior ranked 82nd in her class of 674 at Stephen F. Austin High School in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land, according the lawsuit she filed against the university.

On Monday, in its decision on whether race-conscious school admission policies violate the rights of some white applicants, the Supreme Court affirmed the use of race in the admissions process, but made it harder for institutions to use such policies to achieve diversity.

The justices’ 7-1 decision threw the case back to the lower courts for further review.

Fisher’s academic record placed her in the top 12% of her classmates, and the school recognized her for academic excellence in each of her three years for scoring above 80% in all of her classes, according to the complaint.

She participated in math competitions and also was an accomplished cellist, according to her lawsuit. She was co-president of her high school orchestra and played in city and regional youth orchestras, according to the complaint.

She was also an active volunteer, having worked with Habitat for Humanity, and used her musical skills to play holiday music at a nearby nursing home, among other efforts, the lawsuit indicates.

She included those details in her application to the university, but was nevertheless rejected under a program for students who don’t land in the very top tier academically. Such students are automatically selected for admission.

“I was devastated,” The New York Times quoted her as saying in a story published in October, in what the newspaper said was her first interview since the university turned her down.

“I dreamt of going to UT ever since the second grade,” she said in a video interview released by her lawyers to bolster her case in September. “My dad went there, my sister went there and tons of friends and family, and it was a tradition I wanted to continue.”

Instead, she went on to study finance at Louisiana State University, where she graduated, according to The New York Times. She is working as a financial analyst in Austin, according to the newspaper.

“The only thing I missed out on was my post-graduation years,” the newspaper quoted her as saying. “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.”

In the video interview released by her lawyers, she said she doesn’t like any form of discrimination.

“I was taught from the time I was a little girl that any kind of discrimination was wrong. And for an institution of higher learning to act this way makes no sense to me,” she said.

“If people say anything about me, I hope they say I didn’t take this sitting down,” she said in the interview. “I didn’t accept the process because the process is wrong.”

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