“Diversity” or quotas?

“NO STATE SHALL . . .DENY TO ANY PERSON WITHIN ITS JURISDICTION THE EQUAL PROTECTION OF THE LAWS.”–FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT, UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION

At issue in Gratz and Grutter were two contentions by the University of Michigan: first, that racial diversity is a compelling state interest that justifies an exception to the 14th Amendment and, second, that dual admissions standards are the only practical means to achieving racial diversity while maintaining high academic standards.

Nearly everyone believes in the value of diversity, including racial diversity.  The dispute in the Michigan litigation was not about the importance of racial diversity but about a particular means for achieving racial diversity in college admissions, namely the use of largely separate lower admissions standards for preferred racial groups.  While this mechanism is a highly efficient means for calibrating a desired racial mix of students, it reduces the idea of diversity to simple racial balancing based on skin color.  Instead of enrolling students with a broad range of interests and backgrounds, in reality, Michigan and other schools used racial double standards as an expedient to ensure a minimum percentage of minority students.

Because schools use the idea of “diversity” to disguise what amounts to racial proportionalism, CIR believed that diversity did not meet the constitutional standard for a compelling state interest and, thus, that it could not justify an exception to the 14th Amendment.

Indeed, experience both before and after the Michigan litigation has shown that the use of separate lower admissions standards for a particular racial group imposes undue harms on individual applicants. In addition to excluding qualified applicants from non-preferred racial groups, the use of racial double standards puts preferenced minority students at a permanent academic disadvantage in the classroom. Moreover, schools in many states have discovered that racial double standards are not necessary to achieving a diverse student body (including racial diversity).

CIR sought a ruling striking down the use of “diversity” as an acceptable basis for judging applicants on the basis of race.  Failing that, CIR asked the Court to re-affirm the principle that simple racial balancing is unconstitutional on its face and thus to strike down the admissions systems at the University of Michigan Law School and undergraduate college.

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