COLUMN: Lawsuits probe admissions policies

Myth or Reality:

1. Race is no longer a significant factor in American life.

2. The solution is already out there in Texas, Florida and California. The end of affirmative action will not resegregate American campuses.

3. "Diversity" may be a good idea, but it's not required for a good education.

4. Everyone is admitted to University of Michigan in some rank order of merit except under-represented minorities, who get an unfair advantage because of race.

These four questions are part of a newspaper campaign that ran at the University of Michigan Jan. 18-21 of last year.

"A university," John Henry Newman, English churchman and man of letters, once wrote, "is not a foundry, or a mint, or a treadmill ... but an alma mater, knowing her children one by one."

Frank H.T. Rhodes, president emeritus of Cornell University and former provost of University of Michigan added to the sentiment in The New York Times on Dec. 24, 1999.

"One by one, person by person: That is the basis for educational success," he said. "It is also the basis for a free society: we should not lightly abandon it for a system which, however swift, however simple, not only judges individuals by numbers, but uses numbers as ambiguous as those of class standing. Even in an age bedazzled by ranking, surely we can do better than that."

He was writing in regard to the war that affirmative action is facing. There are a number of fronts: California, Texas, Florida and Michigan. All these states have been or currently are sites of legal battles regarding university admissions policies and affirmative action.

Quick specifics of the University of Michigan cases:

n There are two class action court cases: Gratz v. Bollinger, et. al, was filed on Oct. 13, 1997 and Grutter v. Bollinger, et. al, was filed on Dec. 3, 1997.

n Each case is against a different department: The Gratz case is against the College of Literature and the Grutter case is against the Law School.

n Both cases challenge the universities' use of race in its admissions process.

n Both cases are currently in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments were held Dec. 6, 2001, and are now awaiting rulings.

n The Center for Individual Rights is representing the plaintiffs in both cases. CIR is a Washington, D.C., law firm that has been conducting a campaign of lawsuits fighting affirmative action. They represented Cheryl Hopwood in Texas and are currently suing the University of Washington Law School and several other institutions over affirmative action programs.

n In both cases, student and citizen groups have intervened to defend the universities' policies. Their intervention was initially denied by the district courts, but in August 1999, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit allowed the intervention and made the student and citizen groups full parties in the cases.

In this, Unity Week and the week of Ball State's first official "day on" in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I thought it appropriate that I mention it as a reminder that while we celebrate the dream and everything that it meant, we also recognize and remember there is always more work to do.

I haven't yet found out if Ball State has filed a "friend of the Court" brief as the final verdict of the Michigan case hangs in the balance, possibly heading to the Supreme Court. But, if they have not, what better time, than this week?

More information is available via the Web at and A petition that accompanies the case can be found on the BAMN site. And the four questions ... all myth.

Write to Aric at


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