Students in U-M case seek damages

By Maryanne George

Detroit Free Press, December 10, 2004

Lawyers for two white students who sued the University of Michigan claiming they were denied admission in favor of less-qualified minorities have asked a federal judge to award damages to 30,000 other white and Asian students, who also may have been illegally denied admission.

The motion, filed with U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan in Detroit late Wednesday, is seeking nominal damages of $1 for the nonminority students whose applications were rejected between 1995 and 2003 and asking U-M to refund their application fees.

The lawyers also are asking U-M to reimburse some of those students who may have attended a more expensive school after being rejected by U-M and compensate them for emotional distress, according to court records.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of race as a factor in admissions but threw out the school’s undergraduate admissions system that awarded extra points to African-American, Hispanic and American Indian students.

U-M has replaced the point system with a system that considers race but also requires essays and data about students’ economic status in addition to academic credentials.

The motion filed Wednesday could cost U-M millions of dollars but because of a lengthy appeals process it could be years before students see any money, according to legal experts.

Lawyers from the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington D.C.-based law firm representing Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher also are asking Duggan to certify the rejected students as a class.

U-M spokeswoman Julie Peterson said because the high court upheld the use of race in a similar case against its law school that the request for damages is unwarranted.

U-M has 14 days to reply to CIR’s motion.

Contact MARYANNE GEORGE at 734-665-5600 or