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NBLSA Reacts to Supreme Court Decision to Uphold Michigan Ban on the Use of Affirmative Action in College Admissions

For Immediate Release
April 23, 2014

WASHINGTON D.C. - The United States Supreme Court upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions in the case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. The law, which was passed by 58% of Michigan voters, created Section 26 of the Michigan Constitution, which prohibits discrimination or preferential treatment through consideration of race, sex, ethnicity, and national origin as a consideration in college admission decisions, government contracting, and public employment.

The law was passed in reaction to two Supreme Court cases arising from the admissions processes in Michigan. In the first case, Gratz v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court ruled a ranking system used by an undergraduate program that provided points to underrepresented minorities was unconstitutional. The second case, Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court found that The University of Michigan Law School did not violate the 14th Amendment by giving special consideration to certain minority groups.

In its decision in the Michigan case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, authored by Justice Kennedy, the court stated that the lower court did not have the power to set aside the decision of the Michigan voters and that this issue is one that can be decided by the people. Kennedy, speaking for the majority, went on to write that, "this case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it."

Justice Sotomayor, who was joined by Ginsburg in her dissent wrote, "This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination."
While a university may not be able to consider race in its admission process, it is allowed to consider athletic ability, alumni relationships, leadership abilities, and geography. The fact that alumni relationship can be considered provides preferential treatment to a certain subset of individuals, while admission based on diversity continues to be deemed unconstitutional.

The debate over affirmative action in higher education was first brought to national headlines when California voters passed a measure to ban affirmative action at its universities in 1998. Florida, Michigan, Texas,Arizona, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington have also passed laws banning affirmative action in higher education admission decisions. Since the passage of these bans, schools located in these states have seen a drop in the admission of minority students.

Equality in higher education is a cause that affects the members of NBLSA directly. It is our responsibility to answer the call of fighting to ensure that public universities around the country are conscious of making college education available to minority students. As law students, NBLSA is committed to advocating for equality in access to higher education which will combat the historically low numbers of minority lawyers in the field.

The Facts:
• The primary purpose of race-conscious admissions programs is to benefit the larger educational community and society as a whole.
• Race-conscious admissions benefit the individual student as well as the larger educational community, causing no harm, but instead creating great benefit to a diversified college campus.
• Contrary to myth, Black students accepted to top-tier and flagship educational institutions graduate at high rates and move on to have successful and distinguished careers.
• Access to all law schools including those in the top-tier is important to maintaining integration in the legal profession.
• Race-conscious admissions programs have not been found to create stigma for minority students.
• The elimination of race-conscious programs will accelerate rather than ameliorate the effects of stereotypes upon Blacks and Latinos in the community at large.
• Assertions that limiting the number of minority students on college campuses would improve cross-racial interactions is akin to racial tokenism.

Based on this ruling, the court has effectively said that voters can in effect strike down affirmative action initiatives which seek to provide opportunities for minorities in their states so that a certain class of citizens can continue to reap the majority of the benefits of education.

Will affirmative action become non-existent, because it does not benefit the majority?

The National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) is a 501(c)(3) corporation and the nation's largest student-run organization representing nearly 6,000 minority law students from over 200 chapters and affiliates throughout the United States and six other countries.

Contact: Kim Brimm, National Director of Public Relations at


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