Office of General Counsel

Affirmative Action Now

On June 23, 2003, the United States Supreme Court decided two cases addressing whether race may be considered in university admissions' decisions. Both cases involved admissions to the University of Michigan.

In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Court determined that consideration of race as a factor in admission to law school is lawful. However, in the undergraduate admissions case, Gratz v. Bollinger, the Court held that the manner in which race was considered was unlawful.

Why the difference?

The Court held that achievement of a diverse student body is a compelling state interest that can justify the consideration of race as one of many factors in university admissions. However, in the law school case, the process included an individualized review of each application that included relevant scores, personal statements, recommendations, quality of undergraduate school, and several other factors. Race could be considered but not as a determinative factor and substantial weight was given to non-racial diversity factors. In undergraduate admissions case, the maximum selection index was 150 points for admission. The university provided 20 points, or one-fifth of the total possible score, to every underepresented minority applicant.

The difference, then, lies in the manner in which race was considered and whether the process was "narrowly tailored" to achieve the goal of diversity. For further discussion of these decisions and the legal and factual differences between them, see NACUANOTE prepared by attorneys Michael Madden, Marvin Krislov and Jonathan Alger.

While the law school decision provides much needed clarification for university counsel and other representatives, the decision is a narrow one and the decisions must be considered together before modifying current ASU policies or processes.


Reviewed November, 2011

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