Monday, June 23, 2003

Rights and Reason: Supreme Court Upholds Race as a Compelling Factor in University Admissions II

In going though today's Supreme Court decision on affirmative action, it was this paragraph in the syllabus in Grutter that made it clear to me why the individual rights side lost:

The Court endorses Justice Powell's view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions. The Court defers to the Law School's educational judgment that diversity is essential to its educational mission. The Court's scrutiny of that interest is no less strict for taking into account complex educational judgments in an area that lies primarily within the university's expertise. See, e.g., Bakke, 438 U. S., at 319, n. 53 (opinion of Powell, J.). Attaining a diverse student body is at the heart of the Law School's proper institutional mission, and its "good faith" is "presumed" absent "a showing to the contrary." Id., at 318-319. Enrolling a "critical mass" of minority students simply to assure some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin would be patently unconstitutional. E.g., id., at 307. But the Law School defines its critical mass concept by reference to the substantial, important, and laudable educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce, including cross-racial understanding and the breaking down of racial stereotypes. The Law School's claim is further bolstered by numerous expert studies and reports showing that such diversity promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce, for society, and for the legal profession. Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. High-ranking retired officers and civilian military leaders assert that a highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps is essential to national security. Moreover, because universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of the Nation's leaders, Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U. S. 629, 634, the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. Thus, the Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body. 15-21.
The court responded to the claims of business and military leaders that race is a relevant criteria to judge the qualifications of an individual. Business and military leaders learned this claim at institutions like the University of Michigan, which in its "educational judgment [held] that diversity is essential to its educational mission."

And how did an institution like the University of Michigan come to hold that racial diversity is essential to its education? Because they learned it from philosophers.

Philosophy matters, and it mattered a whole hell of a lot today.

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