An outpouring of U.S. businesses, many of them represented by global or national leaders, have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of the University’s admissions policies, indicating that diversity is an important consideration in the corporate sector.
Microsoft, 3M and United Airlines are a few of about 70 businesses that joined more than 200 other national and military organizations by filing amicus, or “friend of the court” briefs before yesterday’s filing deadline.
The briefs were sent in response to the two lawsuits that challenge the use of race as a factor in the admissions policies of the Law School and College of Literature, Science and the Arts.
The overarching argument presented in the briefs is education in a diverse setting prepares students to better handle the diverse nature of national and global business.
“For students to realize their potential as leaders, it is essential that they be educated in an environment where they are exposed to diverse people, ideas, perspectives and interactions,” a joint brief filed by 65 businesses says.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the briefs help the court “see a different kind of rationale about diversity in higher education than the University is able to bring forward.”
Businesses seek to hire students from academic environments such as the University because they benefit from a diverse workforce and non-minority employees exposed to racial diversity, said Dave DeBruin, the legal representative for the joint brief.
Christine Edwards, executive vice president and chief legal officer of Bank One, said the institution signed onto the joint brief because it believes “it is good business to have a diverse employee base to think about the needs of our consumer base.”
The brief argued educating students about racial and cultural differences is a compelling government interest because business is increasingly conducted on a global scale.
GM spokesman Edd Snyder said his company, which filed a separate brief, needs employees who are prepared to interact with business representatives across the world.
“We make and sell vehicles across the world, and we have to function with a variety of cultures, a variety of races,” he said. “You have to have people who understand these cultures and races.”
He added GM has a direct stake in the cases because they hire many University graduates.
The businesses which signed on to the joint brief – including Coca-Cola, Reebok, Kellogg, General Electric and Pfizer – do not specifically address the University’s admissions policies, but instead defend race-conscious policies in general, DeBruin said.
Despite the number and range of businesses represented in the briefs filed, their arguments probably will not significantly influence the court’s ruling, University of Virginia law Prof. Kim Forde-Mazrui said. The court will mainly focus on the evidence and arguments presented by the opposing parties, he said.
At the same time, if the briefs present arguments not previously considered by the justices, they can affect them “almost at an intuitive and sub-conscious level,” he said.
Peterson said the total number of briefs filed for the cases may surpass the previous record of 78, but said the total is uncertain because she had not been notified of groups filing late last night.