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Businesses, Lawmakers Show Support

Businesses, Lawmakers Show Support
For Affirmative Action in College Admissions

A “stunning array” of organizations representing business, labor, public officials, higher education and the legal profession filed legal briefs in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies in admissions, UM President Lee C. Bollinger announced last month.
The groups — which include 32 of the world’s largest companies, the United Auto Workers, the American Bar Associations, the National Organization for Women Legal Defense Fund and several high-profile Michigan lawmakers — filed amicus or “friend of the court” briefs last month in the university’s appeal of Grutter v. Bollinger.
On March 27, federal district court Judge Bernard Friedman issued a ruling that the university’s law school admissions policy, which considers the applicant’s race as one factor in admissions decisions, was unconstitutional. The case is on appeal in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati (see Black Issues, April 12).
Many of the amicus supporters also plan to file briefs on behalf of the university in the undergraduate admissions lawsuit, Gratz v. Bollinger. Judge Patrick Duggan upheld the university’s policies in his December decision (see Black Issues, Jan. 4).
Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer, U.S. Reps. John Conyers and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Michigan State Rep. Kwame M. Kilpatrick, D-Wayne County, and former U.S. Attorney Saul Green held a press conference last month to announce their action.
“In our amicus brief, we explain that consideration of race in admissions by institutions of higher learning furthers the legitimate educational goal of diversity and racial balance in the classroom,” said a statement from Conyers’ office.
General Motors and Steelcase, which earlier led the filing of amicus briefs on behalf of 21 multinational companies (see Black Issues, Nov. 9, 2000), have filed new briefs along with 11 additional corporations that include American Airlines, Boeing, Mitsubishi, United Airlines and the Coca-Cola Co. In their briefs, the corporations note that almost half of the U.S. population will be made up of minorities by the year 2050.
“The nation’s future depends on leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of a diverse student body,” they wrote. Essential skills for future business leaders include “the ability to understand, learn from, work and build consensus with individuals from different backgrounds and cultures.”
Curt Levey, director of legal and public affairs for the Washington-based Center for Individual Rights, said his group isn’t concerned about any possible impact that “a bunch of big name” supporters will have on the case.
“If this case was being decided on who was wagering the biggest public relations effort, we would lose,” Levey said. “But given the makeup of the Supreme Court, I think they’ll ultimately decide that you can’t use racial preference in admissions. In the end, I don’t think those are going to affect the outcome.”  

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