The University Record, December 10, 1997

U responds to undergraduate admissions lawsuit; companion suit filed against Law School

From the Office of University Relations

Aggressively defending its use of race in making admissions decisions, on Dec. 3 the University filed with the federal court in Detroit its response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) challenging the University's undergraduate admissions practices. CIR sued the University on Oct. 14 on behalf of two white applicants to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Patrick Hamacher and Jennifer Gratz. CIR filed a virtually identical lawsuit against the Law School Dec. 3.

In its answer, the University confirmed its commitment to maintaining a racially diverse student body by acknowledging that "the University of Michigan uses race as a factor in admissions, as part of a broad array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element."

In the 1978 Bakke case, the Supreme Court permitted public institutions of higher education to use race in this manner. The University intends to continue to follow this practice in the future, both in LS&A and in the Law School.

President Lee C. Bollinger stated: "We believe these lawsuits threaten the ability of the University to bring together students from a wide array of backgrounds to create the richest possible environment for education and learning. We cannot let the University of Michigan be thwarted from playing a leadership role---as we believe a leading public university must---in building a tolerant and integrated society."

Responding to allegations that the University operates a separate admissions system for minority applicants, Bollinger added: "Our use of race in our admissions practices is not only lawful but appropriate. Those who say that the University of Michigan has a 'two-track' admissions system, or that race is used in some mechanical fashion, are misinformed about our admissions process. The University of Michigan does not operate a two-track admissions system and does not use race mechanically or without considering the other aspects of an application submitted by a minority student.

"Race is but one of many factors that are taken into account when making admissions decisions. Any factor considered by the University in its admissions process such as residency, athletics, leadership, alumni connections or high school curriculum, as well as race, will make a difference in the way a particular application is considered. We believe that using race in this manner is what the Supreme Court permitted in Bakke and we believe that this is necessary if the University is to perform its public function."

The University's answer to the lawsuit pointed out that Jennifer Gratz had been offered the opportunity to be placed on an extended wait list. Gratz failed to respond to the offer, and therefore was not considered further when other students were admitted from the extended wait list.

See statement issues by Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman.

See statement on the Law School admissions policy.