The University Record, September 4, 2001

Lawsuits make progress during summer months

Editor’s note: The following summarizes progress over the summer relating to the U-M admissions lawsuits, Gratz v. Bollinger, et. al., (undergraduate LS&A admissions) and Grutter v. Bollinger et. al. (Law School admissions), as well as related cases.

By Deborah Greene
News and Information Services

In June, the University received a grant of $600,000 from the Ford Foundation to support public education, outreach and research related to diversity in higher education. The grant will help to fund public education and outreach in connection with two lawsuits the University is defending, which challenge admissions practices in the LS&A and the Law School.

Activities funded by the grant will include research designed to answer questions about future challenges to diversity; ongoing collaborations between social scientists and lawyers defending such challenges; and efforts to educate the public about such research and about the educational benefits of diversity.

The Ford Foundation grant acknowledges U-M’s leadership in preserving and advancing diversity in higher education. The University also has recently received sizable private donations, partly in appreciation of its leadership on the diversity issue.

On May 31 and June 13, 150 individuals and organizations stepped forward to file friend of the court (amicus) briefs with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in support of the U-M. Several of the briefs are available on-line at www.umich.edu/~urel/admissions/gra_amicus/ (for Gratz v. Bollinger, the undergraduate case), and www.umich.edu/~urel/admissions/gru_amicus/ (for Grutter v. Bollinger, the Law School case).

The full list of amicus briefs includes American Bar Association; American Council on Education, et al; Civil Rights Project of Harvard University; Clinical Legal Educators; General Motors Corporation; law deans of Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, New York and Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania; Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law; Michigan public officials, in U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Jr., et al; National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, et al; NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund; Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research; Ohio State University, et al; Ohio State University and Ohio State University College of Law; thirty-six faculty members of The Ohio State University College of Law; thirty-two international corporations, in Steelcase, Inc., et al; and UAW (International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers).

According to the current schedule, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in the appeals of both admissions cases in Cincinnati, Ohio on Oct. 23.

These appeals follow District Court Judge Patrick Duggan’s December 2000 ruling in favor of the use of race as one factor in the University’s undergraduate admissions process and District Court Judge Bernard Friedman’s March 2001 ruling against the use of race as one factor in the Law School admissions process.

In April 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a stay of Judge Friedman’s ruling. Under that stay, the Law School continues to follow its existing admissions policies pending a ruling by the Appeals Court.

In news of other higher education affirmative action cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in December 2000 that the affirmative action admissions policy formerly used at the University of Washington was constitutional and should be judged on the principles of a 1978 Supreme Court Bakke decision, which allows race to be one factor among many in creating a diverse student body. That ruling was appealed and, in May 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court let the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand. Conversely, in June 2001, the Supreme Court let stand a lower courts’ rulings in Hopwood v. Texas, which forbid the use of race in considering applications to the University of Texas Law School. The Court made no decision in either case, but rather, declined to consider either case.

On Aug. 27, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the affirmative action policy at the University of Georgia was not narrowly tailored and therefore was unconstitutional. It did not rule on the issue of whether diversity could be considered a compelling governmental interest.

Facing decreases in underrepresented minority enrollments, the Regents of the University of California system unanimously voted in May 2001 to rescind their six-year-long ban of affirmative action admissions. And early reports from the State of Florida, which banned affirmative action in higher education last year, indicate that Black enrollment in the state’s university system will be cut by half.