Supreme Court Agrees to Review University Affirmative Action Programs
December 6, 2002
by NOW Staff
In a decision that could have sweeping ramifications for women and people of color across the United States, the Supreme Court announced this week that it will review the constitutionality of a public university's affirmative action programs.
The court will consider whether the University of Michiganwhose undergraduate program and law school take an applicant's race into consideration during the admissions process, as do most competitive U.S. collegesis violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which bars racial discrimination by federally-funded institutions, or the 14th amendment which guarantees equal protection of the laws for all people in the country.
Arguments will take place in early 2003, and decisions are expected in the summer.
The University of Michigan says its admissions process considers each applicant as an individual and factors their race as part of an effort to ensure that all students get the educational benefits of an ethnically diverse environment. Hundreds of colleges and universities across the country use similar strategies to guarantee student diversity, and many say that without affirmative action programs, they would go back to having a nearly all-white student body.
Feminist leaderswho have for decades fought to establish and protect affirmative action programs in universities and in the workplacecalled on the Supreme Court to uphold the program's constitutionality, once and for all.
"If it weren't for affirmative action programs like the ones at the University of Michigan and at virtually every selective university across the U.S., diversity on campus would be an empty promise," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Every day for more than 30 years, affirmative action has opened doors for women and people of colorin school and on the job."
"The Supreme Court, which is still 90 percent white and more than 75 percent male, should support and protect Michigan Law School's affirmative action program and similar programs around the country," Gandy added.
BAMN, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means, is planning a national march on Washington to the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of the oral argument. Speakers will include NOW President Kim Gandy and Rev. Jesse L. Jackson. For more information, visit the BAMN website.
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