Declaring that government has a compelling interest in promoting student diversity, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of narrowly tailored affirmative action programs for admissions into highly competitive universities.
In the seminal case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
The admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School continued to provide racial preferences in order to achieve a “critical mass” of underrepresented minority students. After Barbara Grutter, a white student with a 3.8 undergraduate grade point average and an LSAT score of 161, failed to gain admission to the school, she sued with the argument that the preferences violated the equal protection clause and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Although she won at the district court level, the appellate court upheld the university’s affirmative action policy.
In a 5-4 decision, to the surprise of many observers, the Supreme Court also upheld the policy. Delivering the majority opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
On the same day that the Grutter ruling was announced, the Court also announced Gratz v. Bollinger, in which the university’s admissions policy for minorities was found unconstitutional by a 6-3 margin. For selecting undergraduates, the university had simply added a 20 percent increase in the number of points to every underrepresented minority applicant without any individualized assessment. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist
O’Connor, Sandra Day
Race and discrimination
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
Rehnquist, William H.