NAS Hails Michigan Race Discrimination Ruling

April 2001

Princeton, NJ--The National Association of Scholars today applauded a ruling by federal district court Judge Bernard A. Friedman, who held that the University of Michigan's law school admissions policies were unconstitutional. Finding in favor of plaintiff Barbara Grutter, Judge Friedman ruled that she had been denied admission to the University's law school on the basis of race, thus violating both her equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the Federal Constitution and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racial discrimination by any institution receiving federal funds. Whatever the realities of past discrimination or the putative value of a racially diverse student body, Judge Friedman noted, a race-conscious admissions program such as Michigan's was fundamentally incompatible with the Constitution: "Whatever solution the law school elects to pursue, it must be race neutral. The focus must be upon the merit of individual applicants, not upon assumed characteristics of racial groups. An admissions policy that treats any applicants differently from others on account of their race is unfair and unconstitutional."

NAS executive director Bradford Wilson extolled the decision and noted that the organization had filed an amicus brief supporting Grutter's suit: "This was exactly the right decision, and we're grateful to Judge Friedman for sticking to the Constitution, rather than being distracted by the dubious social science hypotheses often proffered in support of race-based admissions policies. One has to admire Barbara Grutter's courage and perseverance in what must at times have seemed like overwhelming odds. It's certainly disheartening to note the lineup of prestigious academic institutions, professional organizations and giant corporations, such as General Motors, which weighed in on the side of Michigan's law school. Still, justice has ringingly prevailed, and we're proud to have supported Ms.Grutter in this eminently worthy cause. No doubt, the battle over quotas in academic hiring and admissions is far from concluded. But this outcome is certainly a major victory for anyone who believes that individual achievement, not group membership, should be the academy's guiding light."

NAS Press Release, March 23, 2001