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The University of Michigan Racial Preference Cases

Barbara Grutter, Jennifer Gratz, and Patrick Hamacher applied to the University of Michigan. Barbara Grutter applied to the University of Michigan Law School, was waitlisted, then rejected. Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher applied to the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Both were waitlisted, then rejected.

In 1997, Grutter, Gratz and Hamacher brought suit against the University of Michigan on the grounds that the university's admissions policies include unlawful racial preferences for black, Hispanic, and Native American applicants. The students argue that the the Constitution guarantees them equal protection under the law and that outside an immediate government interest, it prohibits the state from using race as a criteria for access to government programs and services.

Now before the US Supreme Court, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger have become the most important Equal Protection cases to be heard by the Court in a generation.

The Opinion of the Court
In a setback for individual rights, a majority of the US Supreme Court held that racial diversity is a compelling government interest. (06-23-03)
» Gratz v. Bollinger (PDF 850K)
» Grutter v. Bollinger (PDF 954K)

CAC challenges University of Michigan's race preferences in brief to US Supreme Court
In an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court, the Center demolishes the idea that "racial diversity" is a legitimate government objective. (01-16-03)
» Press Release
» Read the Center's Brief (PDF 123K)

:: The Arguments before the Court
The US Supreme Court granted the student's petition for writ of certiorari on December 2nd, 2002. Briefs to the Court in support of the students were due on January 16th, 2003. Briefs in support of University of Michigan were due on February 18th, 2003. Oral argument took place April 1st, 2003.


» Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher
Argues that the University has not met its burden of justifying the racial preferences that it employs in student admissions. The large, mechanical preferences given to members of specified racial or ethnic groups that the University deems to be "underrepresented" on the campus are not narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling purpose, or any purpose, except racial balancing.

» Barbara Grutter
Argues that in granting a strong preference in admissions to applicants from a select group of racial and ethnic minorities, the Law School invokes an interest that the Court has never accepted as a compelling justification for racial preferences, which it must be to pass the settled requirements of strict scrutiny. Unlike the one interest – identified discrimination – that the Court’s precedents have recognized as sufficiently compelling to support narrowly-tailored remedies, the Law School’s asserted interest in diversity is incapable of being measured with reference to past injury, or to anything other than the ill-defined nature of diversity itself.


In support of the students:

» United States of America (Gratz)
» United States of America  (Grutter)
The University's interest in promoting "diversity" is neither compelling nor narrowly tailored toward addressing past discrimination.
» Anti-Defamation League (Gratz & Grutter)
While supporting the University's commitment to diversity, ADL believes the University's admissions scheme denies prospective students equal protection by emphasizing their race, and not relevant individual characteristics.
» Asian American Legal Foundation (Gratz & Grutter)
Argues that race-based preferences defy the 14th Amendment and often harm the rights of Asian-Americans.
» Cato Institute (Gratz & Grutter)
The University's "critical mass" rational exceeds the limited privilege permitted by the Court in the Bakke decision.
» Center for New Black Leadership (Gratz & Grutter)
The massive racial preferences employed by the University are a superficial and self-defeating response to the academic gap that exists in higher education.
» Center for Equal Opportunity, Independent Women's Forum, and American Civil Rights Institute (Gratz & Grutter)
Court should hold that a State’s desire for greater student-body racial or ethnic diversity does not justify racial and ethnic discrimination, no matter how such discrimination is implemented.
» Center for Individual Freedom (Gratz & Grutter)
The diversity interest is not compelling. There are ample legitimate criteria for generating diverse student bodies that do not depend on invidious assumptions about the greater or lesser worth of students based on race.
» Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence (Gratz & Grutter)
The decisions by the Sixth Circuit in Grutter and the District Court in Gratz should be reversed on the grounds that the University's conduct is not narrowly tailored and the government’s classification of American citizens by race is fundamentally at odds with the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence, the "principle of inherent equality that underlies and infuses our Constitution."
» Duane C. Ellison (Gratz)
The Gurin report, which the University relied upon in its defense, is methodologically flawed.
» Florida and Governor Jeb Bush (Gratz & Grutter)
Florida's experience under Governor Jeb Bush's One Florida Initiative demonstrates that diversity can be attained through race-neutral means.
» Law Professors (Grutter)
The Court should hold that "diversity" is not a compelling state interest sufficient to justify race-based discrimination.
» Michigan Association of Scholars (Gratz & Grutter)
Asserts that the racially discriminatory admissions systems of the University do not substantially advance intellectual diversity, nor do race-based programs contribute to the central aim of the University – the pursuit of truth.
» National Association of Scholars (Gratz)
The Gurin study, which the University relied upon in its defense, did not assess whether a racially diverse student body affects learning (or citizenship). And its measurements of better learning and citizenship, whatever they may have resulted from, are dubious.
National Association of Scholars (Grutter)
Group-identity theory has led to less, not more, campus integration, in direct conflict with the proposition, advanced by the Law School in this Court, that "meaningful interaction among students of different racial backgrounds improves the quality of education at the Law School in many important ways."
» Pacific Legal Foundation (Gratz)
The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits states from benefiting or burdening individuals on the basis of race.
» Pacific Legal Foundation (Grutter)
The Court has required that racial classifications be based on remedying past discrimination by the government unit involved. This limitation has been followed by other circuits except the Ninth Circuit. In the case before the court, there was no allegation or indication of discrimination against minorities by the law school.
» Reason Foundation (Gratz & Grutter)
Because there is no evidence of educational benefit from preference policies in college and university admissions, the university has failed to meet its burden of showing a compelling interest in imposing race-conscious admissions policies that discriminate against certain groups and individuals on the basis of race or ethnicity.
» Ward Connerly (Gratz & Grutter)
The "diversity rationale’" is also incoherent and illegitimate in that Universities are not genuinely concerned with "real diversity," (e.g., diversity of thought). Moreover, diversity is fraudulently used because no other rationale, for the use of race- and ethnic-based preferences in public education has been permitted by the Court.

In support of the University of Michigan:

In a apparent attempt to intimidate the Court by shear volume, over sixty groups, organizations, and individuals filed briefs in support of the University of Michigan.
» Visit the University of Michigan web page highlighting briefs that support racial preferences.



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