SALT Expresses Dismay Over Schuette Decision, April 22, 2014

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Release Date:   April 22, 2014

SALT Expresses Dismay over Schuette decision

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.


Click Here for Full Amicus Brief: 


Summary of Argument
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in Grutter the use of race-conscious admissions programs in public higher education. Under strict scrutiny, the Court determined that the use of such programs were necessary and narrowly tailored to serve the compelling state interest in student body diversity in Michigan’s universities.
Ten years later, this Court must address whether Proposal 06-02 (“Proposal 2”) undermines that determination, as well as educational missions to achieve a critical mass of underrepresented minorities. The past ten years confirm that it does.
Proposal 2 is a state constitutional amendment passed by Michigan voters that prohibits Michigan’s public universities from considering race as but one factor among many in admissions decisions. The exclusion of any consideration of race facilitates diminished diversity in postsecondary education The passage of Proposal 2, and similar bans on race-conscious admissions measures in other states, has depressed minority student enrollment, particularly at the country’s most selective public universities, as well as at law school sand other professional schools. Such bans ignore the importance of-and scores of studies showing the benefits of -diversity in education.
Time and experience have shown that whatever “promise” race-neutral alternatives once held has been debunked. These alternatives do not adequately achieve diversity, ignore its crucial aspects, and exploit the lack of diversity. They also do nothing to alleviate the alleged harms of race-conscious measures, confirming that the use of race as a factor in admissions is narrowly tailored and necessary to effectuate the critical societal benefit of student body diversity. Given the ineffectiveness of race-neutral alternatives, universities should be permitted to avail themselves of their collective experience and expertise to determine whether-if at all -race should be a fator in admissions decisions and to tailor their admissions programs accordingly.