Yale will file a brief with the Supreme Court supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies, General Counsel Dorothy Robinson said Wednesday. Robinson said other universities will also likely sign on to the brief, which she said officials will file next month.
The Supreme Court announced last month that it will hear two cases on the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies, marking the first time since 1978 that the Court will revisit the issue of affirmative action in college admissions. In both cases, which the Court will hear together, former applicants sued the University of Michigan for rejecting them, in part because they are white.
In filing its brief, Yale comes down opposite the administration of President George W. Bush ’68, which filed a brief last week arguing that the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies are unconstitutional.
Robinson said Yale officials are talking to a number of universities about collaborating on the brief supporting the University of Michigan. She said Yale officials have discussed submitting a brief since December.
Harvard officials told the Daily Princetonian this week that they will also submit a brief. Princeton President Shirley Tilghman told the Daily Princetonian that she supported the University of Michigan in the case and that Princeton might join the Harvard petition if asked.
“We will be on a brief and many other schools will, too, because this is a tremendously important issue,” Robinson said. “Yale’s own program of affirmative action in admissions is an example of using race as a positive factor, along with many other factors, in extending offers of admission. Yale’s program is something we will defend vigorously.”
Robinson said Yale chose to file the brief because of the impact the ruling could have on the University.
“It has been — and is — very important to Yale to maintain a diverse student body,” Robinson said. “We want our views to be known.”
University of Michigan Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman, who will defend the university in one of the cases, said the university is grateful for the “outpouring of support” other universities have shown. Lehman, who will become president of Cornell University this summer, said this case has implications for all of higher education.
“All universities clearly have an interest in ensuring our ability to prepare students for life in a racially integrated environment,” Lehman said. “Obviously, the President of the United States is certainly entitled to his views on the matter [but] I don’t think the amici curiae are in any way defying the President. What they are doing is acting as true friends of the Supreme Court, informing the Court about what is at issue in the case before it. So when universities step forward and explain their interests in this matter, it is actually something I expect the President would welcome.”
In a speech last week, Bush said the University of Michigan’s system of awarding underrepresented minorities “points” in admissions decisions was unconstitutional. At the University of Michigan, admissions officials rate students on a point system and admit students who receive at least 150 points. Under the policy, the university awards 20 points to underrepresented minorities.
Bush also criticized the University of Michigan’s policy of establishing numerical targets for incoming minority students.
Several Democrats and affirmative action supporters have criticized Bush’s stance as hypocritical.
They argue that Bush, who earned below average grades in high school and at Yale, benefitted from another form of special admissions — Yale’s preference for legacy applicants.