Affirmative action debate heats up: Seniors'' time at ''U'' centered on admissions suits

BY ANNA CLARK AND JEN FISH
Daily Staff Reporters
Published April 16, 2001

The national spotlight has steadily shone on the University this year, as the lawsuits challenging the use of race in admissions in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and the Law School saw their first two decisions, following three years of discovery, motions and postponements.

Paul Wong
The Rev. Jesse Jackson rallies supporters of affirmative action during a speech in the Law Quad last fall while Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman watches from behind. Jackson also visited campus several weeks ago after U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ru

While the nation may have hoped the University"s lawsuits would clarify the complex issue of race-conscious admissions, the decisions in the two cases conflicted. U.S District Judge Patrick Duggan ruled largely in favor of the University last December, writing in a summary judgment that race may be used as one of many factors in the undergraduate school"s admissions system.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman"s 90-page opinion, following weeks of trial, said the Law School"s use of race is "indistiguishable from a quota system" and unconstitutional. Both cases are headed for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati one step away from the Supreme Court.

In an unusual twist, both the Center for Individual Rights, the law firm challenging the University in both cases, and the University are appealing Duggan"s decision in the undergraduate case. Although Duggan ruled that the current admissions policy is acceptable he also ruled that the "grid" system used between 1995 and 1998 was unconstitutional.

Despite the conflicting decisions, it is possible for the two cases to be combined at the appeals level.

The Law School has been granted a stay by the Court of Appeals, after being denied one by Friedman, meaning that the Law School does not have to alter it"s current system while the litigation continues.

Although the two cases involve separate schools and separate admissions policies, the same points are being debated. Lead CIR attorney Kirk Kolbo summarized his firm"s case against both schools by saying that the University places an enormous emphasis on race in admissions.