Yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling was a “great moment not only for Michigan but for all of higher education and our society in general,” said University Board of Regents Chair Laurence Deitch (D-Bingham Farms).
“I’ve just read the stories in the press but as I understand it, the court upheld Bakke and said the Law School’s plan was narrowly tailored as is required by the Constitution,” Deitch said. “That’s what we’ve been saying and fighting for for six years and it was wonderful to have our views be affirmed.”
While Deitch said he thought both the undergraduate and the Law School admissions policies were fine as they were, he said he was not surprised by the way the decision turned out.
Deitch added he was still pleased with the way the University stood up for inclusion, diversity and fairness, which he said would have been much more difficult with any other outcome.
“Because I believe that if the decision had gone the other way it would have turned back the clock to a less inclusive and less fair America and we would have all been poorer for that result,” he said.
As far as changes the Supreme Court decision will bring about, Deitch said undergraduate admissions policies will have to be retooled to bring them in line with the decision in the Law School case.
“We’re going to put our best minds to that task and we’ll achieve the appropriate result,” he said.
For the incoming class, then, Deitch said it will just be business as usual, but the class of 2008 will see some change in process. He emphasized that this will not affect the goal or outcome; “to have an inclusive and diverse student body reflective of our society as a whole.”
Drafting the new policies to comply with the Supreme Court ruling isn’t going to happen overnight, said Regent Andrew Richner (R-Grosse Pointe Park).
It will require rewriting and redrafting of the University policies, which will take some time, he said.
“That’s our job moving forward, to make sure the University of Michigan has legally defensible policies that comply with the law as pronounced by the Supreme Court,” he said.
He added he was not surprised by the ruling and yesterday’s results.
“From what I had heard from the experts, it wasn’t surprising that the court ruled the way they did, I think they called it fairly accurately, the way it would turn out,” he said. “I think they predicted that it was going to be a narrow decision and that the Law School policy was the more likely to be upheld than the undergraduate policy, and in fact that’s the way it turned out.”
Regent Rebecca McGowan (D-Ann Arbor) said she is pleased with the outcome and hopes the campus community is as well.
“They go to a magnificent public university that has won in its efforts to assure broad opportunity for excellent students and I would hope, I would think, that they would be delighted with this decision,” McGowan said. “They came to Michigan for a reason – I like to think that part of that reason was the value Michigan places on providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds.”
She also said the decision was significant in the autonomy it gives the University to craft its campus community.
“One of the great things about this is that the University can continue to determine who its members will be,” McGowan said. “The governor’s not going to tell us, the president of the United States isn’t going to tell us, and that’s very important.”
McGowan said she feels it is also important that the University of Michigan “went to the line” to defend the principles of the Bakke decision.
“It was worth every second of effort to successfully uphold that principle,” she added.