Statement by U-M President Mary Sue Coleman in response to Supreme Court granting cert to affirmative action cases
December 2, 2002
Clearly this is an issue of great national importance. We are looking forward to presenting our cases before the Supreme Court. This is a moment of great significance in our nations history. We stand at the threshold of a decision that will have a profound impact on our nations higher education system, and on our race relations broadly.
When the Court hears these cases in the spring, it will have the opportunity to reaffirm its landmark 1978 decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Universities have relied upon that decision for the past-quarter century, and it has worked well in guiding their admissions policies. Race is among the factors considered by virtually every selective college and university in the country.
We must be able to assemble a diverse student body if we are to continue providing all studentsregardless of their racewith the best possible educational environment. It is the only way we can prepare students to live and work effectively in our diverse democracy and in the global economy. Whats at stake is the quality of our American higher education system. Our universities are widely perceived as the best in the world, and their diversity is one of their outstanding strengths.
Our admissions policies have been carefully and thoughtfully designed, and are based upon a great deal of research as well as our understanding as educators of our students and their contributions to our learning community. There is no effective substitute for the consideration of race as one of many factors in our admissions process. Other methods do not allow us to recruit a diverse student body while maintaining our consistently high academic standards.
Now is not the time to turn back the clock. A ruling overturning Bakke could result in the immediate resegregation of our nations top universities, both public and private. It also could limit our ability to provide support to minority students through financial aid, mentoring and outreach programs. We have only to look at the impact on flagship campuses in Texas and California to see the effects that such a change in policy would bring.
Our society is more diverse today, yet more segregated along racial lines in many ways than at any time since the Supreme Courts landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. The color of your skin determines so many important things about your life experiencewhere you live, where you go to work, and with whom you work. Race still matters in our society. The ideal of color-blindness does not mean we can or should be blind to that reality.