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 UGAs race-based admissions policy, in which an 11th Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge panel unanimously struck down the universitys 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. Bollingerthe undergraduate case banning quotas, and Grutter v. Bollingerthe 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 OConnor made it clear that racial classifications are . . . dangerous, said Shannon Goessling, SLF Executive Director. Thats why Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Bakers office made it clear that UGA was playing with fire when the committee recommended reinstating racial and ethnic considerations. Bakers office issued an opinion of UGAs 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 pointno quotas, or quota-like programs, for admissionstheyre 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.
More on this story: UGA: Let Race Count.