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Cheryl Hopwood AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN :::::::::: ‘ school at the University of California at Davis, for instance, set aside sixteen of one hundred openings in its entering class for minority students; whites were excluded from competing for those slots. One white, whose application to the school was rejected twice, decided to test the constitutionality of the bifurcated admissions procedure. Allan Bakke had applied for 1973 and 1974 admission to the medical school. He complainedas Cheryl Hopwood would two decades laterthat minorities who had lower standardized-test scores and lower GPAs were accepted over him. In its splintered decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court in 1978 held that rigid quotas for minorities were impermissible, but that race could be considered as one of many factors in admitting students. In the immediate post-Bakke years, the University of Texas law school abandoned its minority-admissions subcommittee. But in more recent years, the school, concerned that its student body would again be overwhelmingly white, reverted to a separate committee to evaluate minority applicants. The crux of Cheryl Hopwood’s complaint concerns the constitutionality of that separate committee and the school’s use of a measure The law school computed each applicant’s GPA and LSAT score into a single number: the Texas Index. Based on their TIs, applicants were grouped into three categories: presumptive admit, presumptive deny, or discretionary. In 1992, the presumptive-admit figure for whites was 199, which was precisely Cheryl Hopwood’s score. But because Cheryl had attended “noncompetitive” schools, her TI was considered inflated, and she was not admitted. The presumptive-admit score for minorities, meanwhile, was 189, three points lower than the presumptive-deny score for whites. In other words, a white applicant who scored between 189 and 192 would presume to be rejected, but a black or Mexican-American applicant in that range would be a presumptive admit. The different standards were necessary to attain a diverse student bodya goal the Supreme Court enunciated in Bakke. Without these separate thresholds, or without some kind of affirmative action, the 1992 entering class of more than five hundred students would have included no more than nine blacks and eighteen Mexican Ameri cans. In fact, of all the minority applicants to all the nation’s law schools that year, only eighty-eight blacks and fifty-two Mexican Americans had a Texas Index of at least 199, according to court records. STEVEN SMITH, Cheryl Hopwood’s lawyer, graduated with honors from the U.T. law school, and in 1987 was hired by the state. As a member of the legal staff of the Texas Legislative Council he drafted legislation, including bills on redistricting, which he says amounted to “minority legislators trying to get their piece of the pie.” He found the work interesting but quit in 1991 to gain litigation experience. He applied to two state agencies, neither of which offered a job. It was the early days of Governor Ann Richards’ “New Texas” her pledge to create “opportunities for everyone regardless of gender or race.” To Steve Smith, though, New Texas spelled new discriminations. Steve Smith had worked all his life, rising above his modest beginnings to become a lawyer, and now he couldn’t help wondering whether the state had passed him over for some less-qualified black attorneys. “That kind of stuck in my mind.” The imagined slight was still fresh in mind when in late July of 1991 he came across a column published in Texas Lawyer, a statewide legal weekly. The piece, written by Lino Graglia, a U.T. con stitutional law professor and one of the nation’s loudest critics of affirmative action, was a tirade against the law school’s practice of grouping applicants into “racial pools.” Graglia wrote that he believed the practice of affirmative action was subject to constitutional attack. By the time he read Graglia’ s column, Smith was setting up his own practice, and says he was looking for a case that could help him make a name. He began researching the law school’s admissions policy, and in June 1992 filed a request under the Texas Open Records Act to obtain the names of U.T. law applicants with high Texas Index scores whom the school had not admitted. On July 30, 1992, he mailed solicitation letters to Cheryl Hopwood and thirty other potential plaintiffs. S CHERYL Hopwood sees it, affirmative action hould be race-neutral, and if preference programs are used, they should be based solely on class, not race. If surmounting past adversity were factored in, she believes her law-school application would have been given a boost. Cheryl’s parents divorced when she was a year old; her mother raised her alone. She grew up in the small town of Mt. Ephraim, New Jersey, outside Camden. Her mother, a bookkeeper, held two jobs in addition to working nights at home, stuffing envelopes and addressing mailing labels. By the time Cheryl was twelve, it had dawned on her that most of her friends could afford to buy records or go bowling or out for pizza, but that for all her mother’s hard work, the family only barely made ends meet. Cheryl got a job delivering afternoon newspapers; she has worked ever since. During the last half of high school, she kept the books for a tile company. After graduation, she continued working full-time at the firm while attending junior college at night. In May 1986, she earned an associate degree in business. She married her high-school sweetheart, who had been stationed in Sacramento, California. She enrolled at Cal State-Sacramento, where she paid her way by working twenty to thirty hours a week. She graduated in 1988 with a BS in accounting and was named Outstanding Senior. The promise of financial security drove Cheryl Hopwood to law. Probably from a young age, she says, from the time she first THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5