University of Michigan Gains More Support for Affirmative Action Program

The United States Supreme Court received 64 briefs in February from over 300 organizations and various groups backing the affirmative action practices at the University of Michigan, according to the New York Times. Supporters included scholars, labor unions, and many Fortune 500 companies, along with notable retired military officers such as Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander in the Persian Gulf War; Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff; and many others, according to the Washington Post. Twelve Democratic senators also filed a brief saying colleges should be able to use race as a factor “in order to foster racial and ethnic diversity in their student bodies,” as stated in the Washington Post.

Last month, the Department of Justice filed amicus briefs supporting the white students’ case against the University of Michigan, which considers race, along with geography, test scores, grades, and a factors, in its admission process. “The Bush Administration is undermining one of the most important tools for promoting equal opportunity,” Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) told the Washington Post.

The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments April 1 for two related affirmative action cases involving the University of Michigan. On the same day, thousands of high school and college students are planning a civil rights march in Washington, D.C. to the Supreme Court to demand that affirmative action be upheld, according to the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN).

At the same time as affirmative action is challenged, preferences shown to “legacies” during the college admission process have come under criticism. ”[President Bush] trying to undo affirmative action programs that promote opportunity, never mind that an older form of affirmative action helped him get into college as a family legacy,” Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-MO) said last month to the Boston Globe. Bush was a third generation legacy at Yale. According to the Washington Post, the proportion of legacy applicants admitted to Georgetown is between 40-42 percent, while the proportion of minorities is only 28 percent. This trend has been seen all over the country at elite colleges and universities, according to the Post.


Boston Globe 3/5/03; New York Times 2/23/03; Washington Post 2/18/03, 2/20/03, 3/12/03; BAMN; Feminist Daily News 2/11/03

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