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Amicus Curiae Brief in University of Michigan Law School Admissions Case


The Sixth Circuit below correctly ruled that the applicable precedent in this case is Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, in which Justice Powell’s controlling opinion held that the promotion of educational diversity in higher education is a compelling governmental interest. This holding is supported both by research evidence introduced into the record in the district court and by a large and growing body of research literature that demonstrates the positive benefits of educational diversity for all students—minority and non-minority alike. Research evidence presented by the University of Michigan Law School, including an expert report by Professor Patricia Y. Gurin documenting the educational benefits of student body diversity, is substantial. Although the “strong basis in evidence” standard applied in remedial affirmative action cases is not mandated in this case, the substantial evidence offered by the Law School would satisfy this standard or any lesser standard. Attempts by Petitioner and their amici curiae in this case and in the related case of Gratz v. Bollinger to undermine this evidence are unfounded. The Gurin Report is sound evidence that strongly supports a holding that promoting educational diversity is a compelling governmental interest. In addition, numerous research studies show that student body diversity can promote learning outcomes, democratic values and civic engagement, and preparation for a diverse society and workforce—goals that fall squarely within the basic mission of most universities. Recent studies focusing on diversity in law schools demonstrate that student body diversity improves classroom learning environments and promotes critical thinking skills. Diverse learning environments challenge students to consider alternative viewpoints and to develop tolerance for differences. Studies further show that student body diversity better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society, and better prepares them as professionals to work with a diverse population of clients and actors in the legal system. The admissions policy employed by the University of Michigan Law School is narrowly tailored to advance the compelling interest in promoting educational diversity. The policy employs race flexibly as one of several factors in determining admissions decisions, and it does not unnecessarily burden non-minority applicants by preventing them from competing with minority applicants on an equal basis. The Law School’s goal of seeking a “critical mass” of students is designed to prevent the harms of tokenism, which are well-documented in the research literature, and the policy satisfies narrow tailoring because it is neither too amorphous nor functionally equivalent to a quota. Evidence introduced in the district court and more recent research studies indicate that race-neutral alternatives are far less effective than race-conscious policies in promoting educational diversity. “Percent plan” policies, which are employed in undergraduate admissions at a few state universities, cannot be applied to professional schools and are not a viable alternative for the University of Michigan Law School.

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