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A Year in Review: The Legal Survival of Race in College Admissions

The Legal Survival of Race in College AdmissionsLegal scholars, college admissions professionals and others made predictions about how the U.S. Supreme Court would rule on the University of Michigan’s two affirmative action cases. Though the predicted outcomes varied, all agreed the decisions would be historic. On April 1, the court heard opening arguments in both cases, and on June 23, the wait was over. The justices in a 6 to 3 vote struck down the university’s undergraduate admissions policy, which used a point-based system for applicants, automatically giving 20 points to Black applicants, and in a 5 to 4 vote upheld the law school’s admissions policy, which used a less mechanical admissions formula, and more of a “highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant’s file,” according to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Both opponents and supporters of affirmative action claimed victory in the days following the ruling. Supporters breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing that the use of race in higher education admissions survived legally. Opponents vowed to continue fighting race-conscious admissions, promising more litigation and campaigns to launch state-based voter initiatives to ban the use of race in college admissions.There’s still some debate about whether the court truly issued clear guidance on the use of race, or caused more confusion. What is certain is that individual schools have had to review and revamp their admissions policies. The University of Michigan announced its new undergraduate admissions policy in August, stating that the new process will “gather more information about student applicants and will include multiple levels of highly individualized review.”
Recent news reports have stated that the Supreme Court’s ruling was slowing down Michigan’s admissions process. As of mid-November, Michigan had admitted 500 students for its 2004-2005 freshman class, compared with 1,500 at the same point last year.

Contined at Saving Morris Brown

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