SHORT TAKES


April 23, 2012

Texas Finds That Discrimination Isn't Cheap

Inside Higher Ed reports this morning that the University of Texas has hired a big Los Angeles-based law firm, Latham and Watkins, to defend its race-based admission policy before the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas, which the Supreme Court will hear next fall. "The law firm, with extensive Supreme Court expertise, will be paid a flat fee of $977,000, with up to another $10,000 for expenses."

Funny, I thought the taxpayers of Texas had already paid not inconsiderable sums to support a large and highly regarded law school at the University of Texas, a law school whose constitutional lawyers are no doubt well schooled in all the loopholes of anti-discrimination law -- they do, after all, have both institutional and personal memory of their school's effort to deny admission to Cheryl Hopwood (an effort, by the way, that was represented pro bono by Vinson and Elkins). In addition, Texans also already pay to support the office and large staff of the state's Attorney General.

If the racial discrimination the University of Texas wants to practice is so hard to defend that no lawyers already on the state's payroll can be found to defend it, perhaps the University should reconsider its policy -- or the taxpayers should take a close look at the return they receive on their investment (which some think of as spending) on lawyers and legal education.

On the other hand, it's a good thing that the defense of discrimination doesn't come cheap these days.

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John S. Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations.


UPDATE

The Austin American Statesman reports that the University of Texas will pay Latham & Watkins with "non-appropriated funds."

Patti Ohlendorf, UT's vice president for legal affairs, said neither legislative appropriations nor tuition dollars would be used. She said [UT President Bill] Powers has access to various discretionary funds, including donated money, revenue from the licensing of trademarks and intellectual property, and income from the Longhorn Network.

Refusing to spend tuition or taxes to defend its race-based admissions policy is presumably intended to reassure Texas parents and taxpayers (at least those who don't themselves benefit from or otherwise support the discrimination), but its obvious defensiveness suggests the University fears there's something fishy about this large expense.

Maybe that's because in Texas, as elsewhere, money, even lots of money, is fungible, and the million or so "discretionary" dollars UT is spending in defense of racial and ethnic discrimination could have been spent instead -- at the president's discretion, of course -- to relieve a million dollars of the burden now placed on "appropriated funds." It's not even inconceivable that some Texas legislators may want to consider the size of those appropriations, if UT is awash in so much discretionary funding that can be spent on discriminating against so many of their constituents.

Comments (1)

James:

Let me get this straight.

The University, a public taxpayer owned and supported entity, generates income which is the property of the investors (viz: taxpayers) and officials of the school treat this income as a slush fund to defend themselves against the wishes of (wait for it!) the taxpayers.

I don't live in Texas, but if I did, I'd be raising holy hell until that university had a couple of job openings.

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