In a decision of national and historic importance, the Supreme Court announced today that it will hear oral argument for both lawsuits filed against the University’s race-based admissions policies.

“We are ready to defend ourselves vigorously,” said University President Mary Sue Coleman.

The University was sued in 1997 by two white applicants, Barbara Grutter and Jennifer Gratz, who were denied admissions to the Law School and the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, respectively. The plaintiffs claim they were denied admission while less qualified minority applicants were admitted.

The Supreme Court decided today to take both the Law School and LSA admissions cases although the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has yet to rule on the undergraduate case. The 6th Circuit upheld the University’s admissions policies in the Law School case in it’s May decision.

University officials said they were optimistic about the Supreme Court’s decision despite asking the Court not to hear the cases.
“We think our policies have been narrowly crafted to comply with the Supreme Court precedent,” University Assistant General Counsel Jonathan Alger said. “No student is shielded from competition with other students because of their race.”

“A Supreme Court decision here would provide guidance to public and private universities across the country,” Alger said. “All along we have developed our legal strategy with this possibility in mind.”
The Center for Individual Rights, a Washington-based law firm, represents the plaintiffs in both cases. CIR attorney Larry Purdy said they welcome a new Supreme Court standard on the use of race in admissions that will affect the entire nation.

“I would hope that they’ll agree unanimously that the use of race and the manner in which the University uses it is inappropriate and wrong,” Purdy said. “Such a ruling, particularly a unanimous ruling in that regard, would be . wonderful for every student of every race.”

Purdy said he had been confident that the Supreme Court would take the admissions cases given the division between the lower courts that have ruled on cases challenging the admissions policies of other public universities.

“These are clear splits in the approaches taken and that is one reason the Supreme Court will step in to resolve these cases,” Purdy.

Former University President Lee Bollinger, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuits, said a Supreme Court ruling on the University’s cases will be felt throughout higher education.
“This is not a University of Michigan case . it is really about relationships between parts of American society,” Bollinger said. “It is a matter of confronting the issue and settling it – only the Supreme Court can do that.”

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