The University Record, August 14, 2000

GM supports University’s stand on affirmative action

By Rebecca A. Doyle

General Motors Corp. (GM) filed a legal brief in U.S. District Court on July 17 supporting the University’s stand on affirmative action. The University’s admissions policy is under fire in two lawsuits filed in 1997 alleging that the U-M unconstitutionally uses race as a factor in admission decisions in both the undergraduate College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and in the Law School.

The amicus brief notes that GM’s interest in the U-M’s legal battle to continue its policy is substantial. GM employs a large number of graduates, especially from the Business School and the College of Engineering.

“In General Motors’ view, only a well-educated, highly diverse workforce composed of people who have learned to work productively and creatively with individuals from a multitude of races, and ethnic, religious and cultural histories can maintain America’s global competitiveness in the increasingly diverse and interconnected world economy,” noted the brief.

GM vice chair Harry J. Pearce explained that GM supports the University because of research that shows that a diverse learning environment produces graduates who will be able to function better in a global marketplace.

“In doing research on whether GM should involve itself in this lawsuit, we have been impressed with a growing body of research that concludes that college students who experience the most racial and ethnic diversity in classrooms and during interactions on campus become better learners and more effective citizens,” he said. “Those are exactly the types of persons we want running our global business—better learners and more effective citizens.”

President Lee C. Bollinger expressed his pleasure with GM’s support in a statement issued the same day.

“The amicus brief submitted today shows that the University’s ability to enroll a diverse student population is not only key to a quality education but essential to the economic vitality of our state and the nation. General Motors’ amicus brief further underscores the link between higher education and business—diversity is as important in achieving educational quality as it is to producing global economic competitiveness,” Bollinger said. “We are deeply gratified by General Motors’ support of our educational objectives.”

GM noted two main points in the document supporting U-M’s stand.

  • Consideration of race in university admissions furthers a compelling interest in educating students and training them to function in the global marketplaces.

  • Elimination of affirmative action in leading educational institutions would deprive businesses of the well-trained minority candidates who are essential to our nation’s economic success.

    The lawsuits were filed on behalf of three white students who were denied admission to the U-M. The undergraduate lawsuit is expected to go to trial in late October or early in November, and the Law School case is scheduled for trial in January 2001.

    A complete history of the admissions lawsuits and supporting documents is available on the Web at www.umich.edu/~urel/admissions/.