The University has until Jan. 19 to respond to a motion, filed last month, that seeks damages for individuals who say they were denied admission because of the point-based, race conscious policy used in LSA admissions from 1995 to 2003.
Lead counsel Kirk Kolbo, an attorney for the Center for Individual Rights, is asking a U.S. District Court in Detroit to award a class of rejected applicants refunds of their $40 application fees and nominal damages of $1 each.
Any individual who applied from 1995 to 2003, and is not a member of the racial groups — blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans — that the University awarded extra points to under the old application system, may be entitled to compensation.
In its last lawsuit against the University, CIR successfully represented two white students in a case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the LSA point-based admissions system in 2003.
LSA has since adopted a new admissions policy that takes racial background into account, but does not use points and relies more heavily on essays.
The firm is also seeking compensation for a subclass of white and Asian-American applicants who they say were forced to attend more expensive private or out-of-state colleges as a result of being rejected by the University.
Terry Pell, president of CIR, said he is confident the court will rule in favor of the rejected students.
“The law is open and shut on this,” Pell said. “The court has held that the University has discriminated against thousands of applicants, and those who suffered financial or other damages as a result of the University’s intentional and illegal actions are entitled to compensation.”
University administrators, however, say CIR’s case is weak.
“The plaintiffs have to show that they would have been admitted under an alternative race-conscious system, and that would be impossible for them to show,” University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. “The truth is there just simply isn’t enough space to admit all the thousands of students who apply to the University.”
CIR, which is based in Washington, is a conservative, nonprofit public interest law firm that specializes in free speech and anti-affirmative action cases. The firm filed the claim last month before U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Duggan in Detroit.