The University Record, October 23, 2000

20 more corporations back University in admissions lawsuits

Editor’s Note: G&L Strategies is a consulting firm, located in New York and Washington, D.C., working on behalf of the 20 corporations that filed the amicus brief.

From G&L Strategies

Twenty of America’s largest and best known corporations announced Oct. 16 that they had filed a legal brief strongly supporting the University in the lawsuits challenging its admissions policies. The amicus brief argues that diversity in higher education plays a critical role in preparing students to become leaders in business and other pursuits that affect the public interest.

The corporations join 35 other organizations, institutions and companies that previously had filed or been parties to amicus briefs supporting the University, including General Motors Corp., the U.S. Department of Justice, the Michigan Attorney General, the state of Ohio and the American Council on Education.

In a statement released Oct. 16, President Lee C. Bollinger said: “I am gratified by the overwhelming support shown by the multinational corporations that have filed an amicus brief in defense of the University’s admissions policies. The brief filed today is further evidence that American businesses view our ability to maintain racial and ethnic diversity on college campuses as essential to their economic competitiveness. In their brief, these corporations emphasize that they must be able to recruit from a racially and ethnically diverse student body population that is prepared to face the challenges of a diverse and increasingly global marketplace.

“I believe,” Bollinger added, “that this broad-based show of support by mainstream corporate American is a confirmation of how effective our admissions policies have been in producing graduates prepared to be leaders in the business community and elsewhere.” The new corporations, led by Steelcase Inc. of Grand Rapids, include: 3M, Abbot Laboratories, Bank One, E.I. Dupont De Nemours & Co., Dow Chemical, Eastman Kodak, Eli Lilly, General Mills, Intel Corp., Johnson and Johnson, Kellogg Co., KMPG International, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft Corp., PPG Industries Inc., Procter and Gamble, Sara Lee Corp., Texaco and TRW Inc.

According to the brief, the corporations’ interest in the case is substantial. All the companies recruit at the U-M or similar leading institutions of higher education, and have a business presence in Michigan and strong connections to their customers in Michigan.

The brief, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, states that racial and ethnic diversity in institutions of higher education is vital to the corporations’ efforts to hire and maintain an effective workforce.

The benefits of being educated with students from a wide range of background, the corporations say, include a highly skilled workforce prepared for the opportunities presented by a global economy. From their experience, they know it is in the best interests of America’s global competitiveness to support the efforts of building diversity in higher education.

“Steelcase’s success as a global company is dependent on our ability to hire people who have experience in and are knowledgeable about working in a diverse environment with diverse ideas and with people from all walks of life,” said Steelcase CEO James Hackett. “Without a strong commitment to diversity from the world’s leading academic institutions, it will become more and more difficult for multinational corporations to compete at the global level.”

Two lawsuits, filed in 1997, claim the University unconstitutionally uses race as a factor in admissions to LS&A and the Law School. The Law School case is scheduled to go to trial in January. No date has been set for the LS&A case, although a hearing on critical motions will be held Nov. 21.

More information on the lawsuits as well as copies of the brief and statements of interest by the corporations are on the Web. See www.umich.edu/~urel/admissions/legal/gratz/amici.html for the amicus brief. See www.umich.edu/~urel/admissions/releases/fortune.html for the press release.