YORK - March 31 - In a landmark case being argued tomorrow before
the Supreme Court, the American Civil Liberties Union will urge
the Justices to uphold the admissions policies of the University
of Michigan, which seeks to promote a diverse student body by
employing affirmative action programs.
will actually hear two cases: one involving the Universitys
undergraduate admissions policy (Gratz v. Bollinger, 02-51),
and one involving its law school admissions policy (Grutter
v. Bollinger 02-241).
is one of the most important civil rights disputes to reach
the Court in the last quarter century," said Vincent Warren,
an ACLU Staff Attorney. "At issue here is not only whether
the University of Michigan can consider race in admissions but
also whether the doors to higher education will remain open
to students of color."
In an attempt
to increase diversity within its student body, the University
of Michigan has for several years included race as one factor
among many in admissions. At issue in the undergraduate case
is the University's point system. While the University awards
points to applicants on a range of academic and non-academic
factors, it also considers the applicant's race by awarding
points to African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in
the admissions process. Conservatives have dismissed this process
as a racial quota, and the Bush Administration has filed a brief
with the Justices opposing the University's consideration of
race in this case and in college admissions in general.
the brief filed by the ACLU and its co-counsel in Gratz notes
that the University also awards points if the applicants
parents are alumni or if applicants come from the upper peninsula
of the state, which is predominantly white, skewing the admissions
system toward white--and often affluent--applicants. School
officials are right to counterbalance the discriminatory effect
of their other criteria by considering race as a factor in admissions,
the ACLU said.
Court will also address the law schools admissions policy.
The law school admissions process does not work on a point system
but seeks to admit enough minority applicants to serve the interests
of a diverse academic community, a prerequisite to ensuring
that all students, regardless of background, experience an intellectual
and social environment akin to what they will see in American
in this hotly contested case no one has challenged the basic
proposition that a diverse school is a better school,"
said Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU's National Legal Director.
"It would be a perverse result if the Constitution were
interpreted to require the University to forego the educational
benefits of a diverse student body that are extensively documented
in the record before the Court."
of groups and individuals have filed briefs with the Supreme
Court in support of the University of Michigans admissions
policies and race-conscious affirmative action programs. Many
are saying that it is crucial that all segments of society receive
the education and training they need to become the leaders of
include former military leaders: General Norman Schwarzkopf
and General John M. Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff; business executives from General Motors, 3M,
Pfizer and Northrop Grumman; Democratic senators including Minority
Leader Tom Daschle, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ted Kennedy,
as well as 60 members of the House.
the ACLU is co-counsel for a group of minority students with
a coalition of civil rights lawyers and groups, including the
NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (LDF) and the Mexican
American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). In Grutter,
the ACLU has joined a friend-of-the-court brief filed by LDF.
the ACLUs brief filed in the undergraduate case please
go to: http://www.aclu.org/Files/OpenFile.cfm?id=11844
the friend-of-the-court brief filed in the law school case please
go to: http://www.aclu.org/Files/OpenFile.cfm?id=11861