Nation’s Largest Civil Rights Coalition Condemns President’s Stance on Diversity in Education

Media 01.15,03

January 15, 2003

Michelle Woolley
(202) 263-2881

WASHINGTON – The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil rights coalition, today condemned the Bush Administration for its decision to file a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court opposing the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan.

“The White House is trying to thread the needle,” stated Wade Henderson, Executive Director of LCCR. “It is playing to its right-wing, anti-affirmative action base, yet trying at the same time to claim it favors diversity in education.”

“President Bush’s actions speak far louder than his words however,” continued Henderson. “He cannot claim a commitment to diversity yet oppose the Michigan affirmative action plan that allows race to be one factor, among many, in admissions. If President Bush’s stance prevails, it will mean that campuses across the nation will have a less diverse student population. And it will mean that tens of thousands of America’s students will face further barriers to economic advancement.”

“In opposing the use of race as a factor in university admissions, opponents fail to acknowledge that admissions decisions have always been based on factors in addition to grades and tests scores, such as geography, unusual talents or experiences, athletic participation, or whether the applicant is a son or daughter of an alum. For the past thirty years, using race along with other factors has enriched the educational experience on our nation’s campuses and broadened equal opportunity for minorities in higher education.”

In December 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would review two cases challenging the affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan – Grutter v. Bollinger, involving the law school, and Gratz v. Bollinger, involving 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.

“The White House simply seems not to have learned the lesson of the Trent Lott episode,” Henderson concluded. “President Bush, in letting his actions speak for themselves, has now made it perfectly clear to the country where he stands on matters of race and equality.”