Supreme Court to hear admissions lawsuits in spring 2003

Sometime during the two-week period beginning on March 24, the University’s legal team expects to appear before the Supreme Court of the United States to argue that the court should uphold the 1978 Bakke decision that has guided U-M admissions practices for more than two decades. The high court agreed last week to hear both the undergraduate and Law School admissions lawsuits when it convenes this spring.

“Universities have relied upon that decision for the past-quarter century, and it has worked well in guiding their admissions policies,” says President Mary Sue Coleman of Bakke. “Race is among the factors considered by virtually every selective college and university in the country.”

In Grutter v. Bollinger et al., the 6th U.S Circuit Court of Appeals last May found the Law School’s admissions practices to be fair and legal under the Constitution, overruling a federal district court decision. The appeals court has not ruled on the undergraduate case, Gratz v. Bollinger et al., after a federal district court judge upheld the University’s current admissions policy. In a petition filed Oct. 1, the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) asked the Supreme Court to take the unusual step of hearing the Gratz case even though the 6th Circuit has not yet issued a decision in the case. The student intervenors in Gratz also filed a petition seeking a Supreme Court hearing.

The University has maintained that if the high court hears either case, it should consider both together.

“We are not surprised the Supreme Court chose to take our cases,” says Marvin Krislov, vice president and general counsel. “We are ready to defend our policies before the nation’s highest court, and in fact we developed our legal cases with exactly this outcome in mind.

“Our cases provide the court with the opportunity to reaffirm Bakke and to ensure that institutions of higher education in all 50 states will have the academic freedom to take race into account in order to secure the educational benefits of a diverse student body without compromising academic selectivity.”

Coleman emphasizes that the University is firmly committed to achieving a diverse learning environment while continuing its high standards of academic excellence.

“We must be able to assemble a diverse student body if we are to continue providing all studentsregardless of their racewith the best possible educational environment,” Coleman says. “It is the only way we can prepare students to live and work effectively in our diverse democracy and in the global economy. What’s at stake is the quality of our American higher education system.”

Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman says a diverse academic environment prepares students for a diverse world.

“We know that students who live and learn at racially integrated campuses are better prepared to be effective in the courthouses and companies of 21st-century America,” Lehman says. “We also know that American society has not yet reached the point where a rigidly colorblind admissions process will produce more than token levels of enrollment of students from some minority groups at the most selective law schools. To provide the highest quality legal education to our students, we have no choice but to employ affirmative action in admissions.”

To read the entire remarks of Coleman, Krislov and Lehman, visit


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