Research News

Peabody’s Flores co-develops brief for U.S. Supreme Court in support of University of Texas diversity policies


Vanderbilt University’s Stella Flores was one of 21 researchers nationwide who developed an amicus brief summarizing key research on affirmative action in anticipation of the case, Fisher v. University of Texas, scheduled to go before the U.S. Supreme Court in October.

The document was submitted by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA to the Supreme Court as it prepares to hear this key case that could shape the future of integration in America’s colleges. Nearly 450 scholars from 172 universities and research centers in 42 states signed the brief in support.

In the upcoming case, the Supreme Court must decide two central constitutional questions in reaching its ruling, both of which can be addressed by research. The collaborative brief focuses on evidence from across the country relating to the university’s consideration of race as one of many factors in evaluating applicants and as an essential tool to producing a diverse and integrated educational community. It shows that the University of Texas and other institutions would lose educationally critical diversity without such policies, given the inequality of opportunity in America’s unequal schools and communities.

Stella Flores
Stella Flores (Steve Green/Vanderbilt University)

“While demographic shifts in the U.S. population are present in the K-12 public schools, they are far less present in our selective college classrooms,” said Flores, assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development. “Evaluating and communicating the impacts of the absence and benefits of diversity in our higher education institutions through peer-reviewed empirical research was a key charge of the brief committee’s efforts.”

An expert on college access policies, Flores investigates the impact of state and federal policies on college access and completion for low-income, immigrant and underrepresented populations. She has written on the role of alternative admissions plans and financial aid programs in college admissions, demographic changes in higher education, the role of the Hispanic Serving Institution in U.S. higher education policy, and Latino students and community colleges. Her work has been cited in the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court Gratz v. Bollinger decision (dissenting opinion) and in various amicus briefs in the Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger Supreme Court cases on affirmative action in higher education admissions.

Founded in 1996, the Civil Rights Project was founded to provide a channel for and give voice to leading researchers on civil rights and inform the national discussion about legal and policy issues directly related to equal opportunity for racial and ethnic minorities.

“When there is an issue before the highest court that could affect every selective college in the U.S., change their student bodies and influence the future of racial equality in the U.S., the Civil Rights Project believes that scholars who carry out and know the research issues best should have a voice,” said Gary Orfield, the project’s co-director.

The counsel of record submitting the brief is Liliana Garces, assistant professor of higher education administration at George Washington University.

The American Educational Research Association also submitted an amicus brief in support of the University of Texas.