The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) expresses dismay at the United States Supreme Court’s decision April 22, 2014 in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. SALT filed an amicus brief supporting the Respondents to the appeal from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down Michigan’s Proposal 2 on the ground that it changed the political structure in Michigan and made it impossible for racial minorities to petition their representatives for affirmative action programs. The brief was drafted by pro bono counsel at the global law firm of Crowell and Moring, in consultation with a committee of SALT members.
Today, the Supreme Court has reversed the Sixth Circuit and reinstated Proposal 2’s ban on race conscious remedies in higher education in Michigan, but the Court’s decision does not affect affirmative action programs (or the lack thereof) in states outside Michigan.
The Schuette case involved Proposal 2, a 2006 ballot initiative approved by the voters of Michigan which prevented state universities from engaging in the kind of admissions procedure that the Court held constitutional in the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger. In that case, the Court upheld the admissions program of the University of Michigan Law School because it was constitutional for the law school to consider race among many factors in making holistic admissions decisions. SALT also participated as a friend of the court supporting the University of Michigan in that case.
The Schuette decision is certainly a disappointment for the universities and law schools in Michigan in their efforts to enroll a diverse student body capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st Century as leaders in their communities and professions. As SALT argued in its brief, the enrollment of people of color at the flagship universities in Michigan suffered after the adoption of Proposal 2, and universities and public institutions will have to work ever harder to obtain the educational benefits that a diverse student body and alumni base provide in light of the constraints of Proposal 2.
The decision, however, does not affect Grutter’s holding that schools still can consider race among a number of factors remains the law after Schuette and Fisher v. The University of Texas decision last term, which SALT also joined as amicus in support of the university’s efforts to enroll a diverse undergraduate student body.
SALT will continue to advocate for increased racial and ethnic diversity at all levels of education. As law teachers, we know the importance of having a diverse pipeline into the legal profession. To deal with the constraints placed on law school diversity by recent court decisions, SALT has participated in several B.A. to J.D. Pipeline Programs throughout the country over the last three years to encourage and mentor a diverse group of students for successful admission into law school. SALT will also continue its advocacy for justice, diversity, and academic excellence.
SALT is a community of progressive law teachers, law school administrators, librarians, academic support experts, students and affiliates. SALT has been working for more than 40 years to improve the legal profession, the law academy and expand the power of law to underserved communities.