Mainstream organizations support ‘U’ admissions

Opponents of affirmative action and the University in the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case have been attempting to portray affirmative action as a fringe policy that only those outside the mainstream political spectrum support. These groups have attempted to label the University’s supporters as a ragtag collection of extreme leftists; a column in this week’s Economist called the College of Literature, Science and the Arts’ policy “a travesty of justice.” But a recent outpouring of support in the form of amicus briefs from prominent organizations suggests otherwise.

Third-party groups file amicus briefs if they are interested in the outcome of a particular case. Among the parties who have filed such briefs are the United Auto Workers, the American Bar Association, the law school deans from such prominent universities as Columbia, Cornell, Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, New York University, Yale and the University of Pennsylvania. Even the University’s arch rival, The Ohio State University, has filed in support of the University. In addition, more than 30 Fortune 500 corporations have filed amicus briefs, including 3M, American Airlines, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, Intel, Microsoft and United Airlines.

These corporations, which all have business ties with the University or the state of Michigan, have recognized the importance of racial and ethnic diversity in both the classroom and in the workplace. They understand that in order to compete in the increasingly integrated global marketplace, it is important to have a talented, diverse workforce.

In the brief, these corporations describe a number of reasons why individuals who have been educated in a diverse environment are more likely to be successful in the corporate world. They point out that such workers bring varied and innovative perspectives to problem-solving. Also, as corporations must develop products and services for the entire world, it is valuable to have employees with the ability to develop products and services that will appeal to a broad clientele. The brief also notes that corporations employing managers and workers who have been exposed to racial and ethnic diversity will have a more positive work environment, devoid of racial and ethnic discrimination and conflict. Such employees and managers will also be more capable of working with not only each other, but with people around the world.

When Justice Lewis Powell wrote the majority opinion in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court decision prohibiting the use of quotas but allowing the use of affirmative action, he saw the importance of promoting diversity within higher education. As the amicus briefs demonstrate, the changes globalization has brought to the United States and the rest of the world over the past quarter century have made the pursuit of diversity a compelling state interest.

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