Center for Individual Rights and the University, the opposing parties in the Law School admissions lawsuit Grutter v. Bollinger, agree on one important factor – race plays a factor most prominently for people in the middle of the admissions spectrum.
“It’s when you’re close to the decision line, that preference makes the difference,” CIR spokesman Curt Levey said.
In CIR’s brief, a grid created by CIR depicts a breakdown of applicants to the Law School who desired to enter in the fall of 1995.
The grid is divided into three sections – Asian Americans, whites and underrepresented minorities, which consists of blacks, Native Americans and Mexican Americans.
For each group, CIR shows the ratio of applicants to accepted students by their grade point averages and LSAT scores.
The grid shows discrepancies in the middle – a larger number of minority students being admitted for a certain cell than white or Asian students.
For example, 10 selected minorities, 65 whites and 20 Asian/Pacific Island Americans with grade point averages between 3.50 and 3.74, and LSAT scores of 159-160 applied to the Law School. Of those admitted, eight were underrepresented minorities, two were white, and one was Asian.
“A review of the data for all the years at issue … shows that although there are variations from year to year, the odds favoring students from African American, Mexican American, Native American and Puerto Rican groups are always ‘enormously’ large,” the brief states.
But University Assistant General Counsel Jonathan Alger, who made it clear that these grids are not used by the Law School admissions office, said it is impossible to get the gist of a class by dividing the class into very small subsections.
He added that the differences between the subsections are very small.
“It’s probably some very tiny number of questions on one test,” Alger said, referring to the LSAT. “It really overstates the impact that an additional counselor would give to the test score.”
Alger added that there are other areas of the grid where the number of whites admitted is higher. He said the class needs to be looked at as a whole to show a better picture of its demographics.
“It’s not meaningful when you subdivide the pool into such pieces … that’s inherently misleading,” Alger said.
But Levey pointed out that CIR’s argument consists of more than statistics.
“It’s not about pure numbers,” he said. “It’s about two individuals with equal credentials being treated equal,” Levey said.
CIR also attacks the relevance of the Bakke v. University of California Regents decision. In its arguments, the University repeatedly says diversity serves as a compelling interest in higher education, using Justice Louis Powell’s opinion in Bakke, where he said race could be used as one of many factors in college admissions systems.
But CIR argues that race is not a compelling interest. They discount Powell’s opinion, and say that the definition of diversity is too vague to make it important.
“An interest in diversity is simply too indeterminate, open-ended, and unbounded by ascertainable standards. Its acceptance as a compelling interest would mark a sharp and lamentable departure from this court’s precedents by authorizing an interest that would … become the nation’s first permanent justification for government-sponsored racial classifications.”