Does Discrimination Against Disfavored Groups Serve a Compelling State Interest?

There are two different admissions programs at issue in the lawsuit that this Court is considering in these cases.
The first is the undergraduate liberal arts school’s program. The undergraduate school bases admissions decisions on a 150-point scale. And the scale, for example, awards up to 80 points for the highest grade point average an applicant can earn, 12 points for a perfect SAT score, 10 points for the quality of the high school the applicant attends, and three points if the applicant submits an outstanding essay. Twenty points are given automatically if the applicant is a member of what is termed an “under represented” racial or ethnic minority, which, for the purpose of the University of Michigan, means African American, Hispanic or Native American. Twenty points generally constitutes about 20 percent of what is needed to be admitted – 100 points are usually sufficient for admission – so the 20 points awarded solely based on race are often the decisive factor.

The result is that a substantial number of minority students with scores and grade point averages substantially lower than many non-minority students are admitted. The only basis for the classification is race or ethnicity. It is a racial classification.

The law school program is different. It has established what it calls a target of a “critical mass” of minority students, and the target is basically between 10 and 12 percent. The LSAT scores and undergraduate grade point average necessary for admission is effectively adjusted in order to meet that numerical target. This means that students are being selected or rejected based primarily on the color of their skin.

Both of these programs are de facto quota programs. At their core, the University of Michigan’s policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race. The University of Michigan’s admissions policies, which award students a significant number of extra points based solely on their race, and establishes numerical targets for incoming minority students, are unconstitutional.

Issue Areas:

Limited Government

Read the Amicus Brief:
Question(s) Presented:

Does the University of Michigan’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate and law school admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000d), or 42 U.S.C. § 1981?

ALF’s Amicus Brief:

ALF argues that there is no persuasive evidence that racial and ethnic preferences in college and law school admissions to achieve “diversity” improve the educational performance of either the minority student students or non-minority students. The evidence relied on by the courts below was seriously flawed and based on subjective criteria and measures prone to serious error.

Objective measures of academic performance show that a disproportionate number of minority students admitted under preference programs do not do well academically, and may indeed suffer because of their lack of preparation to compete academically at institutions which admit them because of preferences. Because there is no evidence of educational benefit from racial preference policies in college and university admissions, the university has failed to meet its burden of showing a compelling interest in imposing race-conscious admissions policies that discriminate against certain groups and individuals on the basis of race or ethnicity.


On June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court issued an adverse decision.

Date Originally Posted: January 5, 2003

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