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Hopwood v. Texas

The Former Policy

Some legal analysts found Hopwood a poor test case for affirmative action, since the University of Texas Law School so clearly violated the Bakke ruling with its policy. Yet that policy had been in place at the University of Texas since 1983, and had been designed to help Hispanic and African American students overcome biases in standardized tests. Arguments questioning the fairness of standardized tests had been supported by data from several studies over the years which had detected such biases. Education specialists also noted that such tests were not always a good predictor of overall academic performance.

The University of Texas Law School had revised its admissions policy by the time Hopwood was decided in 1996. However the particulars of the former policy were explained in court. First, applicants were classed according to a "Texas Index" number (TI). This was the score yielded by combining an applicant's GPA with the standardized Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). This landed the applicants into three slots: either presumptive admit, presumptive deny, or discretionary zone. Hopwood first achieved a TI number of 199, which placed her in the presumptive admit category. These same applications were then reviewed to determine whether their high GPA was simply the result of attending a noncompetitive college. Hopwood's was placed in the discretionary zone pile for this reason.

The University of Texas admissions committee then reviewed those applicants in the presumptive deny category to determine whether any mitigating factors were in place. This caused some of the applicants who had been initially rejected to be placed in the discretionary zone category. The committee then set two presumptive admit and denial lines, with lower requirements for minorities. Finally, the discretionary zone candidates were divided into minority and non-minority piles, and reviewed independently. A subcommittee then evaluated the minority applications and made recommendations for admittance. A random three-member panel of the admissions committee reviewed the non-minority applications in the discretionary zone in batches of 30 and made recommendations for admittance. If an applicant received two or three votes from a committee member, their application would be upgraded and they would be offered a spot on the waiting list.

When Hopwood's file was screened as part of the discretionary zone procedure, she received one vote for admission. The same determination was made for Carvell. Both were placed on the waiting list, but were denied admittance when no slots became available as other candidates accepted their offers of enrollment.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentHopwood v. Texas - Significance, Denied Admission, Millions In Damages, The Terms Of The Complaint, The Former Policy