Affirmative action in higher education could come before the U.S. Supreme Court this summer, as a case brought by the conservative Center for Individual Rights reaches the bench on Thursday. The case challenges the University of Michigan law school’s admission policy, and centers on the Court’s decision in Bakke, in which Justice Powell ruled that an institution could use race as a “plus factor” in admissions. Recent high court cases on affirmative action have narrowed the scope of programs intended to reverse past discrimination against women and people of color. If the Court decides to hear this case and ultimately overturns affirmative action in Michigan’s policy, it could put an end to similar affirmative action programs.
The Bush Administration could be asked to give its opinion in the case, in the form of a brief written by the Solicitor General – possibly the yet-to-be-confirmed Ted Olson. Although Olson could recuse himself, it is disconcerting that Olson volunteered to help the Center for Individual Rights argue a 1996 case, and won that case (Hopwood v. Univ. of Texas) which ended programs to boost minority enrollment in state universities in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.