For Law Prof. Rebecca Eisenberg, educating a diverse group of students has taught her a lot of things, which she said is one reason she, along with many professors, embraced yesterday’s ruling from the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the University’s use of race as a factor in admissions is legal.
“The more diverse the group, the more interesting and surprising the discussion,” Eisenberg said. “Diversity is not the icing on the cake. The ability to negotiate and argue and talk across disagreements arising through different perspectives is the core of what lawyers do. (The decision) goes to the heart of what makes people need lawyers.”
Eisenberg said she does not think many professors would disagree on the constitutionality of the decision because the Law School’s use of race in admissions helps create an excellent law school student body.
But Philosophy Prof. Carl Cohen, an opponent of racial preferences, said he is outraged by the lawsuit.
“The decision of the 6th Circuit court is long and complicated,” Cohen said.
Cohen said he feels affirmative action violates the Fourteenth Amendment and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“In the first place, the Fourteenth Amendment contains an equal protection clause that says ‘no state … shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” Cohen said. “Outright discrimination on the basis of race is a denial of the equal protection of laws.’ In my view, we violate the Constitution. There is no doubt that we discriminate by race; discriminating by race is a denial of the equal protection of the laws. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 explicitly and unambiguously states any institution receiving federal financial assistance is forbidden to discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.
Constitutional law Prof. Richard Primus said a lot of uncertainty surrounds affirmative action and the best result for the issue is to produce a majority opinion explaining what type of diversity satisfies the equal protection laws.
“It’s a very good result for the law school because it shows the idea for diversity is in place but we should not see this as the end of the road,” Primus said.
However, Cohen not only sees affirmative action as just a legal issue, but as a moral one too. He said the complicated matter is outrageous.
Prof. John Gobetti, vice chair of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs said yesterday’s decision is one hurdle in this ongoing battle. Due to the inconsistency in the district and appeals courts’ decisions, Gobetti thinks the case will “obviously go to the Supreme Court” where a final decision will be made on the compliance of the case’s jurisdiction.
Although Gobetti said yesterday’s ruling “is a significant victory for higher education,” he thinks the real importance comes with the Supreme Court’s decision, should it choose to review the case.
Until the Law School receives a response in the expected Supreme Court appeal, Eisenberg said she hopes minority students will feel more welcome than before.
Cohen also thinks the University will proceed exactly as they did before the decision with their admissions policies due to the 6th Circuit Court’s support.