Georgia Regents Won’t Appeal
University Admissions Case to Supreme Court
A court ruling declaring the University of Georgia’s admissions policy unconstitutional because it considers race will not be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the Board of Regents said last month. Instead, the university will focus on recruitment efforts to increase the number of Black students, the regents said.
The case had been seen as a potential vehicle for a Supreme Court ruling on race-conscious admissions, but university President Michael Adams said similar admissions cases in other states may fare better.
“We understand the legal posture and reasons for not going forward to the Supreme Court with this case,” he says. “But this in no way means that the University of Georgia’s commitment to achieving diversity has lessened one iota.”
University system Chancellor Stephen Portch says he consulted Adams, the regents, Gov. Roy Barnes, the attorney general’s office and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund before making the decision.
“This is not the best case to pursue the issue of whether diversity is a compelling state interest,” says Ted Shaw of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “It’s a simple matter of putting your best foot forward.”
That best foot, Shaw says, likely will be a pair of cases pending before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The lawsuits challenge affirmative-action policies in admitting students to the University of Michigan’s undergraduate and law schools. The university administration is fighting to continue the policies.
At the University of Georgia, the first 80 percent to 90 percent of applicants who gain admission are accepted almost entirely based on their grade-point averages and SAT scores.
The remaining applicants previously were evaluated on a variety of other factors. Points were awarded for first-generation college students, children of university alumni and minorities. In August, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that awarding race-based points violated the Constitution’s equal-protection clause. The decision upheld a ruling in favor of three White women who were denied admission in 1999.
Lee Parks, the Atlanta attorney who represented the women, says the decision not to appeal is a “good, positive step forward for the University of Georgia.”
“It’s forcing the school from getting away from, ‘I want to see a class that’s X percent White, X percent Black, X percent Asian,’ to looking at the faces. Those faces should be important,” Parks says. “Hopefully those faces will be representative, but if they’re not, at least it’s the best students possible.”
Under a 1978 Supreme Court ruling, universities may not use racial quotas, but may consider race as a factor when selecting students. Lower courts have interpreted that ruling differently.
The 9th Circuit Court has sided with an experimental elementary school run by the University of California that considered race, but a 5th Circuit ruling led to an injunction banning Texas universities from using race as a factor.
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