White House Experiences “Decision-Day Conversion” on Affirmative Action

The White House responded to today’s Supreme Court rulings on affirmative action with a statement from President Bush applauding the Court for “recognizing the value of diversity on our Nation's campuses” with decisions that “seek a careful balance between the goal of campus diversity and the fundamental principle of equal treatment under the law.”

Someone reading the President’s statement would get no hint of the fact that the White House had urged the Supreme Court to declare the law school’s admissions plan unconstitutional, writing in the administration’s brief that “regardless of how the University’s interest in diversity is defined, the Law School’s admissions policy is not narrowly tailored to achieve any conceivable compelling interest.” The Supreme Court specifically rejected this argument.

A reader would never know that the administration’s brief derided the law school’s goal of having a critical mass of underrepresented students in each class as the use of “disguised quotas.” The Court rejected the administration’s claims that the critical mass goal was an unconstitutional quota in disguise.

According to today’s statement by President Bush, “The Court has made clear that colleges and universities must engage in a serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives. I agree that we must look first to these race-neutral approaches to make campuses more welcoming for all students.” But in fact the Court ruled quite clearly that admissions programs can take race explicitly into account as the Michigan law school program does.

In today’s statement, President Bush said, “My Administration will continue to promote policies that expand educational opportunities for Americans from all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.” But his administration’s legal brief sought to place tighter restrictions on the efforts of college officials to do just that.

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