Volume 11 No 4
University of Michigan Update
The University of Michigan faces two lawsuits brought by the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative legal group that was successful in its challenge of the affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Texas law school in 1996. In 1997, two class-action lawsuits were filed by white applicants whose applications were rejected challenging the University of Michigan's race-based admissions policy in its undergraduate school and its law school.
On December 13, 2000, U.S. District Court Judge Patrick Duggan upheld the use of race as a factor in college admissions, ruling that the University of Michigan's affirmative action program is justified by the educational benefits of racial diversity. (Gratz and Hamacher v. Bollinger). The decision comes less than two weeks after the Ninth U.S Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the University of Washington Law School acted legally when it considered an applicant's race in admissions decisions. The Michigan and Washington cases are at odds with a 1996 decision by the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which barred colleges from using race as an admission factor in Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Another case involving the University of Georgia is pending before the Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The conflict has fueled speculation that the U.S. Supreme Court may soon take a case allowing it to rule directly on the use of race as a factor in college admissions for the first time since 1978.
On March 27, 2001, in a second lawsuit, regarding the University of Michigan's Law school admissions policies, (Grutter v. Bollinger) U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman ruled that the University of Michigan law school's admission standards are unconstitutional because they use race as a factor in assessing applicants. Judge Friedman issued an injunction ordering the U-M Law School to discontinue its use of race as a factor in admissions pending a ruling from the appeals court. On April 5, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted the University of Michigan('s request to stay the district court ruling on the U-M Law School's admissions process. The three judge panel also said it would expedite the University's appeal.