The politics of supporting diversity in higher education : Texas Legislature's enactment of House Bill 588

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Munoz, Evangelina

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House Bill 588 was enacted by the 75th Legislature in 1997. This bill was a response to the Hopwood v. State of Texas, 78 F.3d 932, 962 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1033 (1996) ruling that banned the use of affirmative action policies at The University of Texas School of Law. It was an alternative to the traditional use of race in university admissions decisions and guarantees automatic admission to the top 10 percent of each high school graduating class in the state. This study focused on the deliberations and actions of 75th Legislature in Texas. It was guided by Meranto’s (1967) input-output model designed to show how environmental factors enter a legislative system as inputs, which are then altered within the system to produce a new output. The study addressed four questions: (1) How did members of the Texas Legislature perceive the Hopwood ruling?; (2) What influence did the implementation of the Hopwood ruling have on the policymaking process of the 75th Legislative Session?; (3) What conditions within the Texas Legislature favored the final construction of House Bill 588, and what were the final provisions of the legislative policy addressing minority representation in higher education?; and (4)What key strategies did the author of House Bill 588 implement to facilitate the development and passage of the bill? Findings of the study include: (a) minority legislators anticipated that the Hopwood ruling would have an adverse affect on minority representation in higher education and sought a legislative response; (b) House Bill 588 was enacted in response to the ruling; (c) three conditions within the system were instrumental in the passage of this bill; and (d) five key strategic maneuvers further secured the bill’s success. The study provides other states and policy analysts factors that can be used in place of race in admissions criteria. The study also provides insight into how support was built to enact legislation dealing with the issue of minority under-representation in higher education.