The Brief: Top Texas News for Oct. 10, 2012

Students on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
Students on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

The Big Conversation:

With its admissions process set to go before the Supreme Court this morning, the University of Texas got a boost of support on Tuesday.

The support came from business and civil rights leaders who met at the state Capitol to defend UT's use of race in its admissions policy, which has been challenged by Abigail Fishera white student who claims she was denied admission in 2008 because of her race. The lawsuit — the highest-profile case of the court's new term — could decide the fate of affirmative action programs at public universities nationwide.

"This is the last great civil rights case of our time," Ramiro Cavazos, CEO of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said in support of UT's policy, as the San Antonio Express-News reports.

Such groups, as well as the university, have argued that diversity helps students confront biases and prepares them for the modern workplace. Lawyers for UT will argue today that the university hasn't reached a "critical mass" of minority students.

As of Tuesday, the case had drawn more than 90 amicus briefs, 71 of which supported the university, according to SCOTUSblog

Opponents say that despite the benefits of diversity, such affirmative action programs amount to racial discrimination. Fisher's lawyers say in their brief to the court that UT's policy "places an unwarranted badge of inferiority on the thousands of Hispanic and African-American applicants who are admitted to UT each year based on merit and achievement."

Though lawyers for both sides will attempt to win over Justice Anthony Kennedy, regarded as the swing vote in most cases, observers say he is likely to side with the court's conservatives in a 5-3 ruling against UT. The question is, rather, how broadly the court will choose to rule against affirmative action. As for UT, the Tribune's Reeve Hamilton wrote on Monday that a loss at the high court could make it virtually impossible for students who are not in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class to be admitted to the university.

Check out SCOTUSblog for a more detailed look at the case and a round-up of stories and opinions on the matter. Though the court hears arguments today, a decision isn't expected until next spring.

Culled:

New ads have debuted in three of the state's most competitive races this fall:

  • Democrat Nick Lampson's new spot hits his Congressional District 14 opponent, state Rep. Randy Weber, R-Pearland, for supporting "tax breaks for companies that send Texas jobs overseas."

  • The National Republican Congressional Committee says state Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, has received support from "radical environmentalists in Washington." Gallego is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio.

  • A rape victim praises state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, for sponsoring rape-kit legislation that put the woman's attacker in jail, and slams Davis' opponent, state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, for voting against it.

Must-Read:

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