ACLU Says Expected White House Brief Opposing Minority Equality in College Admissions Shows Lack of Commitment to Racial Justice

January 15, 2003 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Responding to reports that the White House is expected to submit a brief to the Supreme Court opposing affirmative action in college admissions, the American Civil Liberties Union today said the decision is indicative of President Bush’s less than robust commitment to equal rights and opportunity.

“The White House is again talking out of both sides of its mouth,” said LaShawn Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “The President loves to opine about his ‘commitment to racial justice’ but, at practically every turn, he backs policies that contradict his stated convictions. His position spells disaster for racial equality in America.”

The ACLU’s comments came today in response to front-page reports that the President plans to side with several white plaintiffs whose challenge to affirmative action programs in the University of Michigan’s admissions system will be decided by the Supreme Court this year.

“Were the Supreme Court to decide with the White House,” added Vincent Warren, an ACLU Staff Attorney, “it would be effectively resegregating higher education across the country.”

The University of Michigan – a school with a long history of discrimination against minorities – has for several years included race as one factor among many in admissions, the type of policy that the ACLU points to as responsible for the success of multicultural America. In undergraduate admissions, the University awards African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans points in the undergraduate admissions process, which conservatives contend is a racial quota.

However, the ACLU noted that the university also awards points if the applicant’s parents are alumni and 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 this bias by considering race as a factor in admissions, the ACLU said.

The Supreme Court will also address the law school’s 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 life.

The President has long been an opponent of minority-conscious admissions practices, but has been reticent to vocalize his opposition since the furor over Senator Trent Lott’s racist comments last month. Public reticence aside, however, the ACLU said that if the Supreme Court follows the President’s beliefs, classrooms across entire country could look, for example, like those of the University of Texas Law School where the number of minorities admitted dropped by 35 percent – a level in-line with that of the 1960s — in the five years between 1996 and 2001, after then Governor Bush destroyed its affirmative action program.

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