UR joined 37 other colleges and universities supporting the University of Michigan in a lawsuit filed by Barbara Grutter in 1997. The case will be argued before the Supreme Court on April 1.
UR’s support was expressed in the “Brief of Carnegie Mellon University and 37 Fellow Private Colleges and Universities as Amicus Curiae in Support of Respondents,” which was filed on Feb. 17.
A month earlier, President George Bush criticized the University of Michigan’s program. “I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education,” Bush told reporters. “But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed.”
Calling the admissions policy a “quota system,” Bush said, “Quota systems that use race to include or exclude people from higher education and the opportunities it offers are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution.”
UR President Thomas Jackson says that the brief filed by the Solicitor General Theodore Olson on behalf of the United States was more moderate than expected from press reports, but disagrees with its point of just accepting the “top 10 percent of the high school class.” “Although these solutions might be tolerable in a public, state-wide system, they are simply unworkable in a small, national, private research university such as the University of Rochester,” Jackson said.
“This is one of the points made by the brief we have joined.”
“We consider race in choosing our entering class each year, and we consider a host of other factors as well,” Michigan President Mary Coleman said in a press release. “Our policies are moderate, fair and carefully considered and designed to achieve the diversity we feel is critical without jeopardizing our high academic standards or creating disadvantage for other important factors.”
Fifteen briefs have been filed by supporters of the plaintiffs, while 38 have been filed by organizations that have opposed the under graduate admissions lawsuit.
Director of Admissions Gregory MacDonald says that UR does take race into account in accepting applicants. “While a selective institution such as ours looks foremost at each applicant’s ability to succeed in the challenging environment of a national research university, the overall diversity of each year’s entering class is also an important consideration,” MacDonald wrote in a letter published in the “Democrat and Chronicle.”
“A ‘diverse class’ means a broad range of individuals in terms of personal and intellectual outlook, geographic origins, race, ethnicity, nationality, academic interest, extracurricular activities and similar dimensions,” he said.
Campus reactionMembers of the College Democrats support the brief. “I am proud that the UR is standing up and fighting for diversity in our colleges,” senior and president of the College Democrats Josh Gifford said. “It is important for our college to take a positive stance on this issue and show that we embrace differences.”
Continuing, he said, “Affirmative Action is not a quota system, but a plan to help make the nation more inclusive. It is a shame that President Bush, one of the biggest benefitters of a selective system, is attacking Affirmative Action. The benefits outweigh the harms in this case and in the long run make the nation a better place to be in.”
“I think it’s great that UR is doing something,” Students for Social Justice President and Take Five scholar Mansoor Khan said. “I’m all for it. Go UR.”
Some students disagree with using race as a criteria. “I really don’t think race should have anything to do with it,” freshman Doug Allard said. “At the same time you shouldn’t be rewarded for your race, you shouldn’t be downgraded for it.”
“I think that most people would want to get in a school based on merit and not what race they are,” junior Taylor Buckley said. “What a lot of the argument is they should use the social economic standing to get more underpriviled in schools, but that can work independent of race.”Senior KP Grewal says he recognizes the value of diversity, but disagrees with having racial quotas.
“I think that diversity is essential to a quality education,” freshman Jackie Rentrous said. “If we focus on too much diversity — on race as a part of diversity — you don’t achieve a full spectrum of diversity.”
“I think UR wants to look at the whole spectrum of diversity,” she said.
Additional reporting by Robyn Tanner.Schnee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.