Bush criticizes school affirmative action policy
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Calling the use of race in college admissions "unconstitutional," President Bush on Wednesday said his administration will file a Supreme Court brief opposing a Michigan school's affirmative action policy.

During a nationally-televised address, Bush made public his decision to enter the controversial debate. He said African-American, Hispanic and Native American applicants to the University of Michigan's undergraduate program were given special treatment based "solely" on their race and that the law school employed racial quotas.

"This means that students are being selected or rejected based primarily on the color of their skin," he asserted. "The motivation for such an admissions policy may be very good, but its result is discrimination and that discrimination is wrong."

Bush's stance comes as no surprise and is line with many conservative Republicans. During the 2000 presidential campaign, he said he opposed racial quotas. Yesterday, he frequently referred to the Michigan school's program as quota-based.

But college officials disputed that characterization. President Mary Sue Coleman said Bush misunderstood the points system he referred to in his speech and said academic performance, geographic location and economic background also play a role in addition to the race of an undergraduate applicant.

"We do not have, and have never had, quotas or numerical targets in either the undergraduate or law school admissions programs," she said. "Academic qualifications are the overwhelming consideration for admission to both programs."

The federal government is not a party in the case for which the Department of Justice will file a friend of the court brief today. The plaintiff is Barbara Grutter, a white single mother who applied to the law school at age 43 but failed to get in. She contends her race was the reason.

A federal judge in March 2001 sided with Grutter and struck down the law school policy as unconstitutional. "Even when used for 'benign' purposes, [racial distinctions] always have the potential for causing great divisiveness," wrote U.S. District Judge Bernard A. Friedman.

During the trial, the school offered statistics that showed nearly half of all Native Americans who applied to the law school in 2000 were admitted, the highest acceptance rate of any racial or ethnic group.

Separately, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher are plaintiffs in a suit challenging the undergraduate program. Both were denied admission out of high school. U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan in December 2000 struck down the policy under which the pair were admitted but upheld the school's admissions standards post-1999.

Both cases were consolidated on appeal to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the law school policy in a 5-4 decision last May. The court did not rule on the undergraduate program.

Should either policy be struck down, school officials say minority enrollment will drop considerably. Using 2000 figures, for example, the law school's 35 percent minority population would have dropped to 10 percent.

Native Americans make up about 1 percent of the undergraduate population, according to school statistics.

All three plaintiffs are backed by the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington, D.C. based organization that has fought racial- and gender-based programs. The Pacific Legal Foundation, which has opposed treaty rights and tribal sovereignty, filed a friend of the court brief.

Bush on Affirmative Action:
Text | Audio | Video

Holdings Below:
GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER, No. 01-1447, 01-1516 (May 14, 2002) | GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER (March 27, 2001)

Relevant Documents:
Supreme Court Docket Sheet No. 02-241 | Brief: Grutter | Brief: University of Michigan

Relevant Links:
University of Michigan -
Center for Individual Rights -

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