At what age is sulking no longer acceptable behavior? In the case of Fisher vs. University of Texas, Abigail Fisher seems to be sulking well into adulthood, and she wants others to bear the burden of her pouting.
The very short version of the story is that Abigail Fisher applied to the University of Texas at Austin back in 2008. She did not get in, and thought that UT Austin’s race-conscious admissions policy unfairly discriminated against her. She then sued the University, and that suit has reached all the way to the Supreme Court.
Ms. Fisher desired a particular outcome in life and did not get it. It is normal for anyone to be discouraged and upset when reality does not live up to their expectations. For people who have a growth mindset, they dust themselves off, pick themselves up, learn from what didn’t work, and then press forward. But not Abigail—she dreamed of going to UT Austin, and anything less than acceptance demanded reparation. She is quoted as saying, “I dreamed of going to UT ever since the second grade…My dad went there, my sister went there and tons of friends and family, and it was a tradition I wanted to continue.”
Ms. Fisher decided that her misfortune was due to something completely external, and that had nothing to do with her internal performance—it had to be someone else’s fault, and because the root of her problem is external, that externality had to change. Essentially, sulking led to criticism, criticism led to anger, and anger led to a lawsuit.
The interesting part about this case is that in Texas, where Ms. Fisher went to high school, it is written into law (House Bill 588) that all of those graduating in the top 10% of their high school class are guaranteed admission to all state-funded universities—this of course would include UT Austin, where Abigail applied and was rejected. Back in 2008, Ms. Fisher was in the top 12% of her class, but not the top 10%.
Texas enacted HB 588 in 1997, which means that Abigail knew well in advance what was required to get into a state-funded university. Texas drew an objective, race-blind line in the sand that said, “If you perform this well, you get in.” She had four years to apply herself, to work hard, and then execute and academically demonstrate the gumption to qualify and to belong amongst the upper-tier of achievers. However, she did not qualify and she did not earn a spot amongst the elite. She did well—but doing well is not the same as doing great. The top 12% is not the top 10%. The only person at fault here is Abigail Fisher alone.
Sometimes in life, people don’t make that cut and they lose. That’s life. What separates the doers who create real value from those who leech or destroy value, is how they respond to hardship. Abigail chose the latter path.
By the way, Abigail has since graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in finance and currently works in Texas.
The senseless irony in the story of Fisher vs. University of Texas is that it is a case about affirmative action—yet the alleged “victim” is a white female who had a perfectly legitimate alternative opportunity to obtain her education, and she took it. She was not denied an opportunity or access across the board—she was only denied access at a select point—due to variables under her complete control. Her desired solution to amend the alleged discriminatory racial practices of UT Austin is to take away from others something she already has: the opportunity of a college education. That isn’t justice, but the redistribution of choices and the editing of personal outcomes at another’s expense.
Whether or not affirmative action is the legitimate answer to a complicated problem is a topic I will leave to other writers. What is very clear from this case, however, is that when adults sulk, they resort to childish behaviors to try to solve their grownup problems. It is truly unfortunate that we live in a day and age where sulking is cultivated and nurtured all the way up to the highest court in the land. The single worst thing that the Supreme Court can do is vote in favor of Ms. Fisher and against the University of Texas, thereby ending race-conscious admissions practices at the University. This opinion has nothing to do with race, and has everything to do with subjugating that wretched part of the self inside of all of us that would rather have the path made easier than to pick up our own stick and walk. If the court votes in favor of Abby, they will encourage every querulous individual who spits in the face of tenacity, grit, and the development of genuine character, and exchanges those timeless truths for the abhorrent and value-destroying lies of self-pity, vanity, and peevish complaint.