‘President Bush–Defend Affirmative Action,’ Says Nation’s Largest Civil Rights Coalition

Media 01.9,03

January 9, 2003

Michelle Woolley
(202) 263-2881

WASHINGTON – Calling on President Bush to demonstrate his commitment to expanding educational opportunities for minorities and women, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest and most diverse civil rights coalition, today asked the Bush Administration to file a brief defending the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan in a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Deeds speak louder than words,” stated Wade Henderson, Executive Director of LCCR. “Americans concerned about equality of opportunity want President Bush to demonstrate his leadership on behalf of people of color and others who have been denied access to higher education opportunities.”

“As the January 16 deadline for filing a brief in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases rapidly approaches, President Bush should direct the Solicitor General to file a brief in support of the Michigan programs,” said Henderson.

In December 2002, the Supreme Court announced that it would review two cases challenging the affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan: one, Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the law school and the other, Gratz v. Bollinger, the University’s undergraduate program. Both cases raise the critical issue of whether and under what circumstances public universities can use race as one of the many factors in admissions. In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled that campus diversity can be a “compelling governmental interest” that justifies reasonable, narrowly tailored affirmative action programs at universities.

“For most of our nation’s history,” Henderson continued, “women and people of color faced insurmountable legal barriers depriving them of the ability to compete for positions in colleges and workplaces, or for government contracts. However, even with the removal of these legal obstacles, as Congress has repeatedly recognized, women and people of color continue to encounter systematic illegal discrimination that robs them of equal opportunities to secure success.”

Henderson concluded, “With these challenges still with us, it is important for our elected officials to reaffirm that affirmative action remains a meaningful tool to help achieve equality of opportunity and enrich the educational experience at higher educational institutions across the country. It is important for President Bush to make it clear to the country where he truly stands on matters of race and equality, not just through his words but through the actions of his Administration as well.”