Case Study: Two Recent Supreme Court Approaches to Affirmative Action

Length: 6 Pages 1454 Words

One of the most difficult issues modern American universities have had to grapple with is the issue of fairness in the wake of the historic discrimination against minorities in the United States. To do so, the University of Michigan’s University Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) put forth written guidelines that required the admissions department to consider a number of factors in making admissions decisions, “including high school grades, standardized test scores, high school quality, curriculum strength, geography, alumni relationships, leadership, and race.” 1 The university defined African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans to be historically “underrepresented minorities.” 2 These minorities, Michigan alleged, had been the subject of historical injustices, and it was legitimate to take such experiences into consideration when building a freshman class much as one might consider the applicant’s status as a son or a daughter of an alumni, the candidate’s membership in the high school marching band, or location in another region of the country to lend geographic diversity to this state school, a recipient of federal funds. A rejected student, the plaintiff Gratz and a number of other petitioners fil Continue...

3 The court found that Michigan's use of race in its admissions policy was too narrowly tailored to suit the school's interest in creating a diverse student body, thus the policy violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. In the California case, the lawsuit was put forth by Allan Bakke, who in 1973 and again in 1974, was denied admission to the medical program, although the white Bakke's test scores and grades were better than most or all of those minority students admitted through the special medical admissions program, which was specifically designed to bring minorities into the medical school system. There were no restrictions that were part of the admissions program that required candidates to act as ambassadors to such unserved communities, and having obtained their degree, they were free to practice in more affluent areas, to majoritarian populations. 5 Four of the justices on the Supreme Court at the time, led by Justice Stevens, felt that the UC policy was in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which stated that no person shall be subjected to discrimination "on the ground of race. As a result of the Michigan decision, although Michigan still considers race as a factor in consideration, although not to the degree that it did previously, as part of a point system. 6 Justice Brennan proffered a more broad interpretation of the law, citing the language of the 14th Amendment of the U. Firstly, such a wide and broad-ranging societal goal, Justice Powell suggested, was not accomplished by the university program. He stated that in fact the program was harmful, because discrimination was discrimination, pure and simply, dismissing the distinction Justice Brennan, in the minority, made between benign and negative acts of discrimination. Supreme Court regarding the Michigan policy, written by Chief Justice Reinquist, "it is undisputed that the University of Michigan admits virtually every qualified applicant from these underrepresented groups. According to the decision of the U. Constitution that "no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. As the result of the Bakke decision, Bakke was admitted by court order to the medical program. Gratz and others argued that the university's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The more recent Supreme Court decision, however, suggested that creating a policy that was a de facto (in fact) if not a de jure (policy enshrined) form of discrimination was equally unjust, and in violation of the Constitution and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


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