With less than one month remaining until the U.S. Supreme Court hears Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, the details of the proceeding have yet to be finalized. The University has so far been unable to reach an agreement with the student interveners granting them time to make their case before the court. The justices should thus grant the interveners time to argue their position, ideally without taking time away from the University. Because of the complexity of the arguments in favor of preserving affirmative action, the student interveners in the University’s cases should have the opportunity to present their position during oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court.
Each party in the case, the plaintiffs and the University, will have only 30 minutes to advance their positions before the court. The plaintiffs have already decided to grant U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson 10 of their 30 minutes before the court. It is unfortunate that the University was unable to accommodate the student interveners as the plaintiffs were able to accommodate the solicitor general.
It is important that arguments in favor of affirmative action not exclude points of view different from the University’s. It is ironic that the University, which is arguing in court to preserve diversity, would not promote diversity of thought in these legal proceedings.
The arguments that the University and the interveners would make before the Court justify affirmative action in different ways. The University plans to stress the educational importance of using race as a factor in the admissions process. The University will say that this is consistent with the 1978 Bakke decision and that both the admissions policies of the College of Literature Science and the Arts and the Law School are designed solely for this purpose.
The student interveners, on the other hand, justify using race as a factor in the admissions process by stating that affirmative action is a remedy for past discrimination. While the Supreme Court may choose not to accept this rationale as compelling, the position that the interveners have is widely held among the public and an important consideration to take into account when discussing the merits of affirmative action. The court should be willing to hear all relevant points of view, regardless of which of these points of view it chooses to agree with in its decision.
The court should also grant the student interveners time to argue their position because the cause is of tremendous import to students. It only seems fitting that students have the opportunity to speak before the court. Surely the position of the students is as relevant to the outcome of the cases than the position of the solicitor general.
As the court decides whether or not to grant the interveners time to present their case, it should make sure not to limit the range of viewpoints in favor of affirmative action that it hears. In a case revolving around student admissions, the students themselves must be given the opportunity to explain their reasons for advocating affirmative action.