Supreme Court decision U of M

  1. Supreme Court Splits on Diversity Efforts at University of Michigan

    Has anyone been following this case? Any thoughts or comments on the split decision?

    The rulings are expected to have wide impact through private college and universities, businesses and other areas of everyday life.
  2. 41 Comments

  3. by   Spidey's mom
    mkue . . . gotta sign in to see the article. I used to have a user name for the NY Times and forgot it. sheesh.

    Now, lets see if I can find it. . . .

  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    I think the decision needs to be more clearly spelled out. As it is there are still no clear rules, it is still subjective.
    I can easily understand why.
    I saw two wonderful young graduates of the University on 60 minutes.
    The beautiful, bright woman who brought the suit because if she had gotten the extra points black students got she would have been admitted.
    The bright young man who has worked full time since age 15 plus two jobs in the summer. His college grades, SAT, and another test score were nearly perfect. His high school grades were a 'B' average. The extra points for black applicants got him in.

    It is a loss that she had to go to another law school (I don't know that she made that choice). It is a gain that he was able to attend.
    Impossible to be fair.
    I attended a predominantly black nursing school, BSN from a mostly Hispanic campus, and now work with mostly Asian and white nurses. What difference does it make? I don't know and don't care.
    We have in some community college districts a lottery system for the impacted nursing programs. A 'C' student and an 'A' student have the same chance to get in. If rejected you go up on the list. Those rejected every so many times do get in, if they have not given up. When I applied the GPA, letters of recommendations, and previous hospital experience as a volunteer or paid employee gave an advantage too.
    A 'B' student could take classes, earn "A"s and increase their points. This system sets people up to drop out because the rigorous nursing program combined with academic courses are too much for a "C" student.

    So to reiterate, I wil be looking for definite guidelines for universities so we know the rules.
    Last edit by pickledpepperRN on Jun 23, '03
  5. by   Mkue
    Sorry stevielynn, forgot about that signing in, I'll try to find another article, there are many today.

    spacenurse, good post.
  6. by   Mkue
    Court Rules On U of M Affirmative Action
  7. by   SharonH, RN
    I'm surprised, I thought they would have rejected the whole thing outright. It's unfortunate that it is necessary to have the policy in the first place, but oh well.....
  8. by   kmchugh
    Somebody please correct me if I am wrong here. I heard one or two people today declare that the decision handed down by the Supreme Court was "unconstitutional."

    Now, as I remember it, each of the three branches of the federal government has a role in drafting, applying and interpreting the constitution. The role of the judicial branch (the Supreme Court) was interpretation of the meaning of the constitution, and determination of whether or not other laws and statutes violated the constitution.

    It seems to me (if I am correct) that by its very charter, the Supreme Court cannot, by definition, hand down an "unconstitutional" decision.

    Anybody able to confirm this?

    Kevin McHugh
  9. by   sbic56

    Here's the story.

    I have a question. What is the remaining "edge" that minorities have retained? I agree with eliminating the point system. Minority status alone should never be worth more than acedemic excellence, IMO.
  10. by   Mkue
    Whatever happend to be the best you can be standing on your own two feet? I think giving an "edge"is a step backwards, the color of one's skin or country of origin is not an earned measure of excellence. IMO
  11. by   sbic56
    Hmmm...still not sure what this "edge" is. Anyway, I think the best way would be to not enter racial status at all in the process of admission. Some names may suggest a particular race, so why not replace names with numbers? I'm sure it has been thought of and must be too simplistic of a solution.
  12. by   Tilleycs
    I think it's ridiculous. What does race have to do with how well someone will do in college? Even if people are allowed in because of their race, if they don't have what it takes, they won't last long - which will probably only discourage them - how is that doing them a favor? IMO, they're setting some people up for failure.
  13. by   pickledpepperRN
    I listened to a debate with attorneys for both sides, UOM students, and Michigan high school students. Seems subjective is what the court approves of. A current law student stated that the LSAT, high school and undergrad grades are use to decide whether to interview the applicant.
    Written essays, letters of recommendation are then looked at too. There is an interview process that includes professors, attorneys, and judges.
    Clearly this interview can determine whether a student is admitted. Presentation including appearance, body language, poise, use of logic, and grammer are some of the factors used by the interviewing panel. It would be impossible to disguise the skin color of the person.

    In my initial response to this decision I said I don't care what effect the ethnicity of my fellow students was. I do admit to prejudice. I am predisposed to like a person who resembles a friend or loved one or speaks with a certain accent. I have found myself wrong yet over and over want to like this person.
    I now agree with Justice O' Connor that all parts of society should be represented in all professions (sorry, relying on my memory here). When I first worked as a nurse UCLA medical school had a reverse quota, accepting the top 2% of women so men got 98% of the spots. It is logical to think men were admitted over more qualified women. Many chose women doctors because they were all so good.
    An article below:
    June 23, 2003
    Justices Back Use of Race for College Admissions

    WASHINGTON, June 23 - The Supreme Court preserved affirmative action in university admissions today by a one-vote margin but with a forceful endorsement of the role of racial diversity on campus in achieving a more equal society.
    ``In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity,'' Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote in her 5-to-4 majority opinion upholding the University of Michigan's consideration of race for admission to its law school. [Excerpts, Page A26.]
    At the same time, by a vote of 6 to 3, and with Justice O'Connor in the majority as well, the court invalidated the same university's affirmative action program for admission to its undergraduate college. The difference was in the details: the undergraduate school uses a point system based in part on race.
    As a result, the pair of decisions - the court's first in a generation to address race in university admissions - provided a blueprint for taking race into account without running afoul of the Constitution's guarantee of equal protection.
    The law school engages in a ``highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file'' in which race counts as a factor but is not used in a ``mechanical way,'' Justice O'Connor said. For that reason, she said, it was consistent with Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.'s controlling opinion in the Bakke case in 1978, which permitted the use of race as one ``plus factor.''
    The result of today's rulings was that Justice Powell's solitary view that there was a ``compelling state interest'' in racial diversity, a position that had appeared undermined by the court's subsequent equal protection rulings in other contexts and that some lower federal courts had boldly repudiated, has now been endorsed by five justices and placed on a stronger footing than ever before.
    Although the four dissenters in the law school case did not directly confront the continued validity of the Bakke precedent, it was clear that both Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia would have overturned it if they could. ``Every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all,'' Justice Thomas said in a dissenting opinion that Justice Scalia also signed.
    Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote the principal dissenting opinion that spoke for all four, including Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. He took a more oblique approach that attacked the law school program not so much for its premise as for how it works in practice, dismissing it as ``a carefully managed program designed to ensure proportionate representation of applicants from selected minority groups.''
    Justice Kennedy, writing separately, said that Justice Powell's opinion in the Bakke case ``states the correct rule for resolving this case,'' but that the court had not applied the ``meaningful strict scrutiny'' under which the program should have been found unconstitutional.
    Joining Justice O'Connor's majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, No. 02-241, were Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote a brief concurring opinion, and Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer.
    By contrast with the law school, the admissions program for Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts awards 20 points on a scale of 150 for membership in an underrepresented minority group - blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians - with 100 points guaranteeing admission to the university's main undergraduate school. Fixed numbers of points are also awarded for other factors, including alumni connections, geography and athletics.
    The inclusion of race on the scale, with the result that nearly all qualified minority applicants are admitted to the competitive program while many qualified white students are turned away, demonstrates the absence of the ``individualized consideration'' that the Bakke decision required, Chief Justice Rehnquist wrote. Justice O'Connor echoed that conclusion, describing the undergraduate program as a ``nonindividualized, mechanical one.''
    Justice Breyer, concurring separately, did not sign the Rehnquist opinion. The dissenters were Justices Ginsburg and Souter, who said the majority opinion was incorrect on the merits, and Justice Stevens. He said the case should have been dismissed because the plaintiffs, two white students who had failed to win admission under an earlier version of the undergraduate admissions policy, lacked standing to challenge the current policy that the university adopted in 1998.
    The rulings today came as an enormous relief to the civil rights community, as well as to public and private colleges and universities around the country, dozens of which had joined briefs supporting Michigan. Although the constitutional issue applied directly only to public institutions, federal law has given private colleges an equal stake in the outcome by forbidding racial discrimination by educational institutions that receive federal money.
    President Bush issued a statement praising the court ``for recognizing the value of diversity on our nation's campuses.'' He added, ``Like the court, I look forward to the day when America will truly be a color-blind society.''
    The statement made no reference to the fact that the administration had asked the court to invalidate both Michigan programs as thinly disguised quota systems that violated the holding of the Bakke decision. Mr. Bush had personally announced in a televised address in January that his administration was siding against the university.
    ``A reader would never know that the administration's brief derided the law school's goal of having a critical mass of underrepresented students in each class,'' the liberal advocacy group People For the American Way said in a statement.
    The administration's brief faulted the university for having failed to consider ``race-neutral alternatives'' before adopting its affirmative action plans. The only example the brief offered as an acceptable alternative was the plan now used in Texas, California, and Florida, where admission is offered automatically to high school graduates above a particular class rank.
    In her majority opinion today, Justice O'Connor was close to dismissive of the administration's analysis. She said the brief did not explain ``how such plans could work for graduate and professional schools.'' She added: ``Moreover, even assuming such plans are race-neutral, they may preclude the university from conducting the individualized assessments necessary to assemble a student body that is not just racially diverse, but diverse along all the qualities valued by the university.''
    The court's precedents, including the Bakke decision, made clear that any official consideration of race must survive a standard of judicial review known as strict scrutiny, meaning that the policy must serve a compelling state interest and be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Consequently, Michigan faced two analytical hurdles in defending its programs in lawsuits brought by three disappointed white applicants, Barbara Grutter in the law school case and Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher in the undergraduate case, Gratz v. Bollinger, No. 02-516. The university had to persuade the court that racial diversity was a compelling interest that was appropriately served by the challenged programs.
    Justice O'Connor's opinion in the law school case embraced the diversity rationale. ``Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized,'' she said. She added that law schools, in particular, serve as gateways to economic and political leadership.
    ``Access to legal education (and thus the legal profession) must be inclusive of talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity,'' she said, ``so that all members of our heterogeneous society may participate in the educational institutions that provide the training and education necessary to succeed in America.''
    Her opinion cited a number of briefs from businesses, colleges and, with particular emphasis, two dozen retired senior military officers and former commandants of the service academies, who told the court that affirmative action was essential to maintaining an integrated officer corps.
    The real debate came down to whether either program was narrowly tailored enough. With its 20-point formula, the undergraduate program had always appeared more vulnerable. The Federal District Court in Detroit had invalidated both programs. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, upheld the law school program but never issued an opinion after hearing argument on the undergraduate program.
    In concluding her opinion, Justice O'Connor noted that 25 years had passed since Bakke and said affirmative action should ``no longer be necessary'' 25 years from now. That led Curt A. Levey, director of legal and public affairs at the Center for Individual Rights, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, to observe that universities would start facing new lawsuits 20 years from now if they did not heed the court's advice.
    ``The court says affirmative action is not timeless, and it had better not be,'' Mr. Levey said in an interview.
    Last edit by pickledpepperRN on Jun 26, '03
  14. by   Mkue
    I don't think race or color should ever be a factor in admission policy, not even ONE of the factors. The boxes need to go IMO. I think it's a step backwards to discriminate against any race or color. It's also a step backwards to enable kids to think that they deserve an edge over other kids if it's not based on merit.