As the U.S. Supreme Court nears a
decision in the case of Grutter v. Bollinger, et al., the
suit challenging the constitutionality of the law school’s
admissions policies, organizations that represent law and medical
schools have reaffirmed the importance of race-conscious admissions
policies. The Association of American Medical Colleges and the Law
School Admission Council have forecasted significant declines in
the number of black and Hispanic doctors and lawyers should the use
of race-conscious admissions policies be ruled unconstitutional.
These reports highlight the importance of the admissions policies
that the University’s law school uses in order to create a diverse
Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman has acknowledged the decline in
the number of minority students that would result from the
elimination of the use of race-based admissions policies. Lehman
predicts that in the case of the University’s law school, there
would be a decrease in the number of minority students entering the
class of 350 from 21-37 to about 10.
In order to create a more equitable society, there are a number
of reasons why it is important to have a large number of
underrepresented minorities within these professions. Without
race-conscious admissions policies, minority communities would have
a lack of well-educated minority professionals. Minority doctors
and lawyers who return to their communities provide residents with
quality medical care and legal services, which these communities
often lack. The young professionals also help to inspire younger
members of the communities to continue with their academic
It is often assumed that young minority professionals flee their
original communities once they have completed their educations.
After graduation, many of these minority professionals in fact
return to poorer minority communities and help to raise the
standard of living in those communities.
It is also a fact that minorities are more likely to seek
assistance from minority professionals when they are in need of
professional services – an example of the need for an increased
number of minorities educated at professional schools. There is an
enormous need for doctors, for example, in poor communities and
many medical school officials acknowledge the importance of having
minority doctors trained at their schools. Grades and standardized
test scores, which often favor white applicants, do not necessarily
determine who will be the best doctors or lawyers.
Studies have shown that eliminating race-conscious admissions
policies in favor of what is sometimes referred to as “economic
affirmative action” has not proven to be successful in maintaining
diversity within professional schools. In a brief to the Supreme
Court, the Association of American Medical Colleges wrote,
“Accounting for economic hardship will not level the admissions
playing field for minority and non-minority medical school
candidates.” There appears to be no adequate substitute for
race-conscious admissions policies in order to guarantee a diverse
student body at the professional school level.
The new data illustrate the reality that the use of
race-conscious admissions policies is not merely significant in
determining the makeup of a law or medical school class, but that
there will be wide, negative societal implications if the court
does not uphold the University’s current law school admissions
system as constitutional.