Washington, D.C. – The Center for Individual Rights filed a class action lawsuit today against the University of Michigan seeking to have its admissions policies declared unconstitutional. Along with co-counsel David F. Herr and Kirk Kolbo of the Minneapolis firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman & Brand LLP, CIR is representing two plaintiffs, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, who were denied admission to the UM undergraduate college of Literature, Science and the Arts in 1995 and 1996, respectively. The lawsuit seeks to terminate use of race-based admission preferences. In addition, it seeks admission and monetary damages for all individuals denied admission since 1995 because of Michigan’s illegal racial preferences.
CIR is a public interest law firm that last year successfully challenged affirmative action policies in Texas state schools in Hopwood v. Texas. Like the Texas admissions program, Michigan operates a “dual” admission program with different admissions criteria for minority and non-minority students. According to University documents, minority and non-minority students with identical credentials are treated differently solely on the basis of their race. In some cases, minorities are automatically admitted whereas non-minority applicants with identical SAT scores and grades are automatically rejected.
The lawsuit contends that the University’s racial preferences violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In addition, it seeks unspecified monetary damages from former UM President James Duderstadt and current president Lee Bollinger in their individual capacities, on the theory that Duderstadt and Bollinger knew or had reason to know that the Michigan affirmative action policies violated the constitutional rights of Gratz, Hamacher and the class of other applicants denied admission solely because of the color of their skin.
CIR President Michael McDonald commented, “Though particularly egregious, the Michigan racial preferences are not different in principle from the affirmative action policies at many competitive colleges and universities in the country. This lawsuit should serve notice on college presidents everywhere that they will be held individually liable under federal civil rights laws if they do not act now to bring their admission policies into compliance with the law.”