Jon E. Garrett
Writing the future of journalism one post at a time


October 10, 2012

Justice Alito turns University of Texas hearing into Aggie Joke


“A marginal candidate who gets rejected by UT can always enroll in ROTC at Texas A&M or Texas Tech,” Justice Samuel Alito.


You might not be aware of this if you’re reading this somewhere else, but them’s fighting words in the Lone Star state.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, a Yale man by way of Princeton and former Army captain, made the above statement in a
hearing earlier today before the court concerting the case Fisher v. University of Texas.  The case, brought by Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz (Michalewicz left the suit in 2011) in 2008 after being denied admission to the school, could overturn
a 2003 5-4 decision by the court that said affirmative action at universities might be necessary for another quarter-century to ensure that classrooms reflect the nation’s racial diversity.

The girls, both white, argued that the university – which operating under Texas House Bill 588, better known as the “Top 10% Rule” passed in 1997 and guarantees Texas students who graduated in the top ten percent of their high school class automatic admission to all state-funded universities – discriminated against them on the basis of their race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Both fell short of the top percent, despite otherwise glowing qualifications, including a relatively high SAT score for the time of 1290 by Michalewicz (to go along with her top 10.14 percent class ranking) and an impressive extracurricular resume by Fisher (1180 SAT), who finished in the top 12 percent of her high school class. Accomplishments aside, not meeting the golden number put the young women in the pool of students where talents, leadership qualities and family circumstances as well as race were considered as part of the admissions process.

The consideration of race in college admissions is a hot topic and one that is always open for debate. Proponents argue that diversity is crucial for everything from the survival of the economy to our own continued sovereignty as a nation. Opponent’s say take the best-of-the-best based on numbers and call it a day. Compromises like the “Top 10% Rule” rarely work out to anyone’s liking.

No matter what your inclination any decision meted out by the court on the issue will have far-reaching consequences and anyone with any interest in higher education or American education in general should follow the hearing closely.

As for myself, a University of Texas graduate and a minority, I’m more concerned about the firestorm Justice Alito may have unleashed in my own home state. When Texas A&M left the Big 12 it shook the state. More vitriol was wasted on the fact that one of the longest running, and in my opinion best, rivalries in college football was over. The Longhorns were vilified for being too high highfalutin by some Aggies, while more than a couple of T-Sips I know– as graduates and fans of A&M like to refer to UT student and alumni – accused the Aggies of being a bunch of dumb rednecks, tired of playing second fiddle to the best university in the state and just dumb enough to head to the SEC and get crushed on the football field yearly.

That’s neither here nor there for me. I’ve got plenty of friends on both sides of that pasture, but while I feel personally that the University of Texas at Austin is the superior school there’s no reason for Justice Alito to go poke a sleeping bear. The amount of intra-state whining you no-doubt unleashed with this statement will bring down parties, serve as fodder for those who wish to divide and in some rare cases maybe even divide families.

So, for the remainder of the hearing it would be nice if you used that Ivy League education to think of a nicer way to say something like that – or maybe not say it at all. Us T-Sips might make jokes about Aggies being dumb, but even they know when they are being insulted.

And, some advice, they might agree with your politics for the most part and you might have been appointed to the bench by the son of the man whose presidential library they host, but don’t think for a minute the next time you’re in College Station that the Aggies will forget this. Watch your step and livestock, if you happen to have any.



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  1. Fooz

    That’s not even what he said. And definitely not a quote from him. Here is what he said, IN CONTEXT.

    JUSTICE ALITO: Why is it important for the ROTC program for commissioned officers that Texas have this other plan on top of the top 10 percent plan?

    GENERAL VERRILLI: Our — our military effectiveness depends on a pipeline of well-qualified and well-prepared candidates from diverse backgrounds who are comfortable exercising leadership in diverse settings.

    JUSTICE ALITO: Oh, I understand that. And just — I don’t want to cut you off, but –


    JUSTICE ALITO: — because the time is about to expire, so you’ve got a marginal candidate who wants to go to the University of Texas at Austin and is also interested in ROTC. Maybe if race is taken into account, the candidate gets in. Maybe if it isn’t, he doesn’t get in. How does that impact the military? The candidate will then probably go to Texas A&M or Texas Tech? Is it your position that he will be an inferior military officer if he went to one of those schools?

    GENERAL VERRILLI: No, Justice Alito.

    JUSTICE ALITO: Then I don’t understand the argument.

  2. John Brown

    There’s little question that UT is a more prestigious university nationally than A&M. There’s also little question that truly attempting to qualitatively differentiate the two is silly. I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class, had a high SAT score, and enjoyed a great, challenging environment at A&M. I had several – yes, several – friends who got accepted at UT, but not at A&M (and no, they were not minority applicants). Both are great schools.

    Alito’s statement, while great material for a few self-satisfied longhorns to chuckle about, shows that he’s not very familiar with Texas education. But why should he be? He’s an ivy league man. The backwards ways of the Great State matter little to his ilk.

  3. Scrap

    I think the quote by Fooz above no way resembles what the author quoted at the beginning of this article. If Fooz is correct, then it is the author who has a chip on his shoulder and is trying to create a buzz about nothing. The author needs to go back to school and learn the reporter should be reporting the news not making the news. But he is probably a Tea Sip Tee Shirt Fan.

  4. KeithDB

    Here is a link to the Supreme Court’s own official transcript of the hearing:

    The closest Alito comes to saying that which is falsely attributed to him is on p. 68. What he actually says there is:

    “because the time is about to expire, so you’ve got a marginal candidate who wants to go to the University of Texas at Austin and is also interested in ROTC. Maybe if race is taken into account, the candidate gets in. Maybe if it isn’t, he doesn’t get in. How does that impact the military?”

    As you can see, that is not even close to the false claims about what he has said. This website is simply perpetuating a hoax.

  5. John

    Partial quotations are par for the course in regards to Journalism now days. It happens all the time. Why is nothing be done in Journalism school to try and cut down on this practice?

    • Jon E. Garrett

      Hi friends. First, thanks for reading. It’s been a busy week for me with some big games coming up and a huge musical festival coming to my particular town to cover, but I see this story caught some fire and some of you have questions as to the source of the Alito statement. Since, I don’t have the funds or cache to cover a Supreme Court hearing myself I followed the coverage of the hearing provided by the Wall Street Journal (hotlinked near the end of the story). Anyone, who wants to see the info that I used can go to: The article: Recap: Supreme Court Hears Affirmative-Action Case The statement as reported during the live blogging of the event by a Journal reporter is highlighted below:

      12:23 pmby Jess BravinAdd a Comment
      So the government will count it a win if diversity survives, even if Ms. Fisher wins her specific claim against UT. The administration says diversity can even have life and death consequences — in Vietnam, the officer corps was nearly all white, but the grunts were much more black and Hispanic. That contributed to morale and leadership problems within the Army. The service academies practice race preferences to ensure a diverse officer corps, the government says, and it needs ROTC graduates also to reflect diversity.

      12:23 pmby Jess BravinAdd a Comment
      Justice Alito isn’t much impressed. A marginal candidate who gets rejected by UT can always enroll in ROTC at Texas A&M or Texas Tech, he says.

      12:26 pmby Jess BravinAdd a Comment
      Justice Alito asks: Do you believe that black and Hispanic students from privileged backgrounds deserve a preference? Mr. Verrilli says that’s not how he understands the UT program. It’s not a preference for “privilege,” he says, but rather a way to enhance diversity, seeking out students who play against stereotypes — like, he says, an “African American fencer.”

  6. […] Justice Alito turns University of Texas hearing into … – Jon E. Garrett […]

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