Posted on December 13, 2004

SLF Warns UGA President Adams: Diversity Does Not Mean Quotas

Southeastern Legal Foundation Press Release, December 2, 2004

ATLANTA: The Southeastern Legal Foundation today warned University of Georgia President Michael Adams that adopting the recommendations of the Faculty Admissions Committee to reinstate race and ethnicity for admission consideration “creates a grave constitutional risk for a school administration that has been told not to do it by a federal appeals court.”

SLF participated in the successful 2002 federal lawsuit against UGA’s race-based admissions policy, in which an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously struck down the university’s admission program. SLF also participated in the two U.S. Supreme Court cases in 2003 dealing with admissions programs at the University of Michigan and the U of M School of Law. (Gratz v. Bollinger—the undergraduate case banning quotas, and Grutter v. Bollinger—the law school case upholding limited consideration of race for another 25 years).

“Even in the Grutter decision, which allowed for extremely limited use of race as a factor for admissions, Justice O’Connor made it clear that ‘racial classifications are . . . dangerous,’” said Shannon Goessling, SLF Executive Director. “That’s why Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker’s office made it clear that UGA was playing with fire when the committee recommended reinstating racial and ethnic considerations.” Baker’s office issued an opinion of UGA’s recommended program in October, warning that the school must spell out a time limit for “diversity” goals, based on the U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“The Gratz case and the UGA case were both on point—no quotas, or quota-like programs, for admissions—they’re unconstitutional,” said Goessling, an attorney. “The small but rapidly closing window for ‘diversity’ purposes in the limited world of university admissions defined by the Supreme Court in Grutter, however, makes it clear that any new policy must be narrowly focused and must not harm merit-based admissions consideration.”

Goessling points to the 11th Circuit decision on the UGA program, which was clear on the message of ‘diversity:’”If the goal in creating a diverse student body is to develop a university community where students are exposed to persons of different cultures, outlooks and experiences, a white applicant in some circumstances may make a greater contribution than a non-white applicant,” the Court said.

Goessling also points out that SLF will be reviewing any new admissions program adopted by the university which grants special preference or consideration for non merit-based admissions for potential legal action.

[Editor’s Note: More on this story: UGA: Let Race Count.]