June 23, 2003

Supreme Court UMich Admissions Decision

Jurist reports that the UMich affirmative action decisions are now available. The Law School Opinion, where the law school's affirmative action policy was ruled constitutional by 5-4 is 95 pages. The Undergraduate School Opinion where the University of Michigan's college of Letters, Arts, and Sciences point-based admissions policy was struck down by a 6-3 vote is 68 pages.

A friend of mine, D, just graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and was one of the authors of the amicus brief that the law school submitted. While she obviously had an opinion, she was receptive to my concerns that the point system was too blatant and seemed somehow unfair. Each time that she and I discussed the issue, we both agreed that it's an ugly problem with no easy answers. Someone is going to be left out. Choosing that someone is never an easy thing. We both believe that people who claim that it's a simple problem with an obvious solution are blind to, ignoring, or just not aware of some of the important points.

I am happy that by the numbers, it appears the the Justices understand the complexity of the problem and didn't find it easy to make a unanimous decision in either case. I think I want to live in a world that allows for moderate preferences based on socio-economic disadvantages. Defining moderate is the problem. The UMich point system seemed to go to far, in my opinion. But, from what I understood about the law school's policy, I'm not certain that it was bad or good policy. I believe that if it's not obviously bad policy (again, difficult to define), we should leave it to the educational systems, employers, etc. to offer moderately preferential treatment to socio-economically disadvantaged people as they chose. In short, I think I'm happy about today's decisions. But, I need to read the opinions in full before I can completely commit to that statement.

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