A week after Yale announced plans to file a Supreme Court brief in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies, several major corporations are also expected to throw their support behind the university.
Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Proctor & Gamble and several other companies are expected to file a brief with the Supreme Court Feb. 18 supporting the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies, a lawyer for the companies said. The companies are expected to argue that diversity in education is critical to promoting a diverse workforce, said David DeBruin, a Washington, D.C., lawyer who is working on the brief.
The companies, along with more than 25 others, submitted a similar brief when the case was in the Court of Appeals.
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.
Last week, Yale General Counsel Dorothy Robinson announced that Yale would file a brief supporting the University of Michigan in the case. Harvard and Stanford officials have also said they would sign on to similar briefs. Yale’s announcement came a week after President George W. Bush’s administration filed a brief opposing the University of Michigan’s policies.
DeBruin said the group represented in the Supreme Court brief will likely include the companies who filed the Court of Appeals brief, and it may include other companies as well. He said one reason companies are signing onto the brief is to protect their recruiting interests.
“What we say in our brief is that it is critically important to these companies, when they go to campuses, to recruit and hire students who have been educated and trained in an environment in which they have been exposed to the broad range of people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints which are the same as those in which they will work,” DeBruin said.
Attorney Daniel Mach, who is working with DeBruin on the brief, said the companies’ brief will not directly oppose the Bush administration’s brief. While the Bush administration addressed the University of Michigan’s admissions programs specifically, the companies’ brief will not express a view about the specific programs the university uses. Instead, Mach said it will support the University of Michigan’s claim that diversity in higher education is a compelling state interest.
University of Michigan Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman, who will defend the university, said companies rely on campus diversity in their recruiting efforts.
“The reason [corporations have taken an interest in the case] is that they are doing business in a racially integrated society and it is very important to them that the people they hire out of college and out of law school are well prepared to be effective in that world,” Lehman said.
Lehman said the corporations’ support may have an influence on the Court’s decision.
“My experience is that the Supreme Court cares about the extent to which its past precedents have found acceptance across a broad range of American society,” Lehman said. “The fact that so many of America’s largest employers have taken the extraordinary action of stepping forward in this way is bound to be significant.”