Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Putting the court's ruling into context


Questions and answers about affirmative action

Enquirer news services

Question: What's all the fuss about? Don't lawsuits like this get filed all the time?

Answer: The University of Michigan cases are the most significant test of affirmative action to reach the U.S. Supreme Court in a generation. In 1978, the high court ruled that racial quotas were unconstitutional.

SCOTUS RULING:
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

[img]
UM student Ebonie Byndon smiles outside the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Cincinnati Monday.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |

Court upholds principle, strikes down quotas
Local colleges step up minority recruiting
Local college-bound teens divided on vote
Tristate: Race matters
Putting the court's ruling into context
Bush: Diversity, not quotas, won
Excerpts from the court's two cases
Editorial: For the good of diversity
Guest column: Colleges face new confusion with court's guidelines
Local voices: Affirmative action ruling

Full text of opinions (links courtesy USA Today and Findlaw.com)
Law school ruling
Undergraduate case
Q: Why doesn't the Constitution permit schools to consider an applicant's race?

A: It does, but only as one among many factors. What a school cannot do, justices said this time, is install inflexible or automatic racial preferences.

Q: How, exactly, did the University of Michigan's undergraduate school discriminate against whites?

A: The school used a 150-point index to screen applicants. Minorities were automatically awarded 20 points just for not being white.

That virtually guaranteed admission to qualified minority applicants - meaning some whites with better academic records were denied admission.

Q: Twenty points doesn't seem like that much of an advantage. What's the big deal?

A: The 20 points given to minorities was more than the school awarded for some measures of academic excellence, writing ability or leadership skills.

Q: Why doesn't the university simply accept everybody who is smart enough to go to college?

A: The school doesn't have the resources to accommodate them all. In 1997, the year some rejected white students sued, the school had 13,500 applicants - and selected 3,958 of them as freshmen.

Q: How can the University of Michigan Law School's policy of racial preferences be legal?

A: The law school program upheld by the justices considers the race of an applicant along with several other characteristics.

Q: Do the rulings affect schools outside Michigan?

A: Yes. The Michigan cases directly address admissions at public, tax-supported institutions throughout the United States.

Q: Are private institutions exempt from the rulings?

A: The court's rationale is expected to have a wide ripple through private colleges and universities, other government decision-making and the business world.

Q: What's the bottom line on these court rulings?

A: The decisions ensure that public and private universities can continue to use race as a factor in admissions, something almost all top schools do.

Q: How many minority students attend the University of Michigan?

A: Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians represent 13.6 percent of Michigan's undergraduate students and 12.5 percent of its law students.

Q: Why does the University of Michigan insist racial preferences are necessary?

A: It claims that a diverse student body prepares students for an increasingly diverse work force and society.

Q: Are law firms and other businesses looking to hire college graduates irked that the University of Michigan and the Supreme Court think it's OK to influence the racial makeup of student bodies?

A: Actually, Michigan-based General Motors Corp. and 65 other Fortune 500 companies supported the university, saying racially integrated colleges help them recruit a diverse workforce.

Q: Does this mean the debate over affirmative action at colleges has finally been settled?

A: Probably not. Schools are going to have to walk a fine line between promoting diversity and avoiding discrimination against whites who have better academic records than minority applicants.




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SCOTUS RULING: AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
Court upholds principle, strikes down quotas
Local colleges step up minority recruiting
Local college-bound teens divided on vote
Tristate: Race matters
Putting the court's ruling into context
Bush: Diversity, not quotas, won
Excerpts from the court's two cases
Editorial: For the good of diversity
Guest column: Colleges face new confusion with court's guidelines
Local voices: Affirmative action ruling

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