A group of higher education associations has weighed in on a new college admissions case before the U.S. Supreme Court, urging justices to strike down the state of Michigan’s ban on the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions.
ACE and 48 other associations submitted an amicus brief on Aug. 30 in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which is scheduled for oral arguments Oct. 15.
The case follows closely on the heels of another high-profile Supreme Court university admissions case, Fisher v. the University of Texas at Austin (UT). The court issued a decision in Fisher in June, agreeing with the higher education community that diversity on college campuses offers unique educational benefits to students and is a compelling government interest. It ordered lower courts to reexamine the challenge to UT’s use of race and ethnicity in its admissions process.
In the Schuette case, a coalition of groups have challenged the Michigan ban, which voters approved in 2006 as an amendment to the state constitution. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down the ban last year, ruling that it violates the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, which mandates that states must apply their laws equally to all individuals and groups of people.
As the groups note in their brief, the argument in Schuette is different from the issues presented in Fisher. In Schuette, the state of Michigan (Bill Schuette, the petitioner in the case, is Michigan’s attorney general) is not questioning higher education institutions’ compelling interest in diversity, nor is it challenging the constitutionality of narrowly tailored race-conscious measures to attain it.
Instead, the groups write, this case is about a different issue, “the asserted distortion of the political process in respect of public universities’ authority over their admission of students.” The brief asserts that the appeals court correctly decided that the ban unconstitutionally distorts the political process to the disadvantage of racial and ethnic minorities, and therefore the Supreme Court should affirm that decision.
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Inside Higher Ed (Sept. 3, 2013)