Before the end of the day, the written case against the University’s admission policies will be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. As today’s filing deadline approaches, briefs from groups opposing the use of race in college admissions are pouring into the Court.
Legal briefs will be filed today by the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington-based law firm representing the plaintiffs in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in late March or early April for the two cases, which challenge the University’s use of race as a factor in its admissions policies for its Law School and College of Literature, Science and the Arts, respectively.
Curt Levey, director of legal and public affairs for CIR, said the firm’s legal team will not make any major changes to the arguments it presented in the U.S. District Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Some arguments will be slanted differently, he said, but lawyers will still use the “two-pronged argument” which challenges the reasons for the policies and their constitutionality.
“We don’t think diversity can ever justify racial preferences,” Levey said. “But even if it could, (the University’s) use of preferences is way outside the bounds of what’s constitutional, even as judged by Justice (Lewis) Powell’s decision in the Bakke decision.”
The cases and the Supreme Court’s subsequent ruling are considered by many legal experts to be the most influential in terms of race-conscious policies since the University of California Board of Regents v. Bakke decision. The Supreme Court banned the use of racial quotas in university admissions, but Powell stated in his opinion that race could be considered as one of many factors to create a diverse environment.
Although CIR will argue that the University does not have a significant reason to use race-conscious admission policies, University President Mary Sue Coleman said the policies are vital for creating a diverse learning environment, which she said benefits the entire student body.
“In the end our goal is to choose among a pool of well-qualified applicants to enroll a student body that is diverse in a rich variety of ways,” Coleman said in a written statement. “We know from extensive research and our experience as teachers that this creates the best learning environment for all our students, majority and minority alike.”
Georgetown Law Center Prof. Susan Bloch said legal briefs such as the ones filed by CIR today “are generally more significant” to the Supreme Court than the oral arguments, because each side only has a half hour to deliberate in front of the justices.
Bloch said that in the briefs, which are limited to about 30 pages, CIR’s lawyers will argue that the University has not provided a substantial reason to give minorities admission preferences.
“They’re going to say that in order to justify what the University considers the use of race in admissions, the University must have a compelling purpose,” she said. “They’re going to say the University doesn’t have a compelling purpose.”
Bloch added that the justices will spend several days reading the briefs and then review them after hearing the oral arguments.
Supporting CIR’s legal argument, President Bush and several national organizations announced yesterday that they would file amicus, or “friend of the court,” briefs.
While stressing the importance of diversity, officials from the Anti-Defamation League said in a written statement that the group is sending a brief in opposition to the University’s admission policies because even though the University has the best interests of the student body in mind, the policies are unconstitutional.
“We believe in the value of diversity in higher education, as elsewhere,” ADL National Chairman Glen Tobias and National Director Abraham Foxman said in the statement. “However, we also believe that the racial preference route the University of Michigan chose to get there is unacceptable and cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”
The National Association of Scholars, a higher education reform group, is also filing a brief arguing against the policies. Although NAS has traditionally opposed the use of race as a factor in student admissions and believes students should be evaluated by their academic merit, the primary purpose of the brief is to challenge the University’s claim that diversity significantly educates the student body, NAS Executive Director Bradford Wilson said.
“We want to address the scholarly claims being made by supporters of the University,” he said.
Wilson said NAS conducted studies using the University’s empirical evidence and found that the University’s claims that most of its faculty and staff support race-conscious admissions and that diversity provides the student body with significant educational benefits are not true.
In addition to the amicus briefs supporting CIR’s position, the Congressional Black Caucus announced yesterday that it would file an argument in support of the University, although the deadline for briefs and legal arguments supporting the policies is Feb. 18.
Agnes Aleobua, a member of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, said the caucus’s announcement is a strong message to critics of the University’s policies.
“It is a message on the other side that our people are standing up and fighting,” Aleobua said.