Turning Back Clock on Fairness, Court Rejects Univ. of Michigan's Affirmative Action Policy

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
March 27, 2001 12:00 am

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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which was part of a legal team that successfully defended the university’s undergraduate affirmative action policy, said that today’s ruling could bring a return to the days when institutions of higher education are largely white and affluent.

“Based on what we’ve already seen after the elimination of affirmative action programs in California and Texas, this ruling will have a devastating effect on the University of Michigan’s law school population,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. “It is likely that fewer minority students will become the leaders in their communities as a result.”

In his opinion, Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that the University of Michigan Law School’s use of race as a factor in its admissions decisions in unconstitutional and a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In doing so, he rejected the argument that the goal of assembling a racially diverse student population is justified.

The court’s decision is diametrically opposed to a December, 2000 decision by Judge Patrick Duggan in a similar lawsuit regarding the University’s undergraduate affirmative action admission policy, Moss said.

In that case, Judge Duggan recognized diversity in higher education as a “compelling government interest” and rejected an attempt to dismantle the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program.

Today’s ruling suggests other solutions, such as relying less on standardized tests and grades, but it will be a far more difficult for universities to increase diversity without affirmative action resulting in fewer minority students as part of law school classes.

The case, Barbara Grutter v. Lee Bollinger, Jeffrey Lehman, Dennis Shields, Regents of the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School will be appealed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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