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As the U.S. Supreme Court prepared to hear the University of Michigan affirmative action cases, diversity issues became a focal point at Penn Law, sparking different viewpoints and presentations. In late June, the Supreme Court issued rulings that upheld colleges’ right to consider race in admissions but struck down Michigan’s use of a numerical system that awards additional points to minority applicants.

ATTORNEY FOR U. MICH. MINORITY STUDENTS FEARS ROLLBACK OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

Shanta Driver Shanta Driver worries that the U.S. Supreme Court will set back racial equality if it requires the University of Michigan to reverse its policy on affirmative action.

That was the message from Driver, who represented student intervenors in one of the two cases before the court, when she spoke to the United Law Students of Color Council in February. In Grutter v. Bollinger, Driver argued that America promotes racism through the separate and unequal quality of K-12 education and bias in standardized tests.

Driver expressed concern that the chief justices’ refusal to hear minority students’ testimony on the use of test scores for admissions ignores a crucial argument. She said such tests reflect and perpetuate discrimination and are not in any way a neutral measure of academic merit.

At issue in the case is whether race can be considered in college admissions.

ROOSEVELT AND PELL TAKE DIFFERENT SIDES ON HISTORIC UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN CASE

Assistant Professor of Law Kermit Roosevelt thinks racial diversity is a compelling state interest that deserves consideration in the University of Michigan case.

Terence J. Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, thinks otherwise, accusing the school of perpetrating a dual admissions policy that, in the end, does not serve minority students.

Roosevelt and Pell squared off in a debate sponsored by the Penn Law Federalist Society. Roosevelt teaches Constitutional Law at Penn. Pell represented a white University of Michigan student who claimed she was denied admission due to racial preferences.

In his argument, Roosevelt said the University of Michigan admits minorities to serve its goal: diversity. “Michigan wants to break down stereotypes by exposing students to members of other races,” Roosevelt said. He added that racial preferences are no different than preferences for athletes or alumni’s children.

Pell responded: “Racial preferences are a false, feel-good solution to a terrible problem. They cover over the real problem, which is the breakdown of K-12 education at many schools that serve minority students.”

He said the University of Michigan unwittingly hurts black students, who may get in but drop-out at higher rates than other groups at the school.

 
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