Affirmative Action on the Line at the Supreme Court

Rally Supports Affirmative Action Policies While Supreme Court Hears Arguments

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) joined other civil rights organizations in sponsoring a rally in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies on Tuesday, April 1, while the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the case. PFAWF co-wrote an amicus brief in support of the university. John Payton, one of the attorneys arguing for the University of Michigan, is a board member of PFAWF.

The U.S. Supreme Court will review two cases challenging the affirmative action admission programs at the University of Michigan, one involving the law school (Grutter v. Bollinger) and the other the undergraduate program (Gratz v. Bollinger). The issue in both cases is whether the University’s goal of admitting a diverse student body justifies making race a factor, among others, in admissions decisions. The outcome of the Michigan cases will not only determine whether colleges can continue to level the playing field for women and minorities, but it may also decide the future of affirmative action far beyond university classrooms.

“Affirmative action programs have helped desegregate America,” said Ralph G. Neas, president of People For the American Way Foundation. “Racial discrimination in employment, housing, voting and education is a very real part of our history and an unfortunate reality in our country today. Undermining our ability to provide remedies for discrimination – whether by attacking affirmative action or appointing federal judges who are opposed to basic principles of civil rights enforcement – is a huge step backwards for our country. Unfortunately, that’s the direction this administration is leading us.”

Neas said President Bush’s decision to file a legal brief urging the Supreme Court to rule against the University of Michigan’s efforts to create a diverse learning environment could unfortunately have a far greater impact on people’s lives than all the press conferences about outreach and all the promises of a ‘new day’ in the Republican Party.

“We hope the Supreme Court will recognize affirmative action has bipartisan support and realize it is an effective remedy for the lingering impact of discrimination,” said Neas. “This case is about whether colleges can take race into account as they attempt to create a diverse student body, a goal with a demonstrated educational value in our increasingly diverse society.”

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