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The Dartmouth
May 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students debate Michigan case

A round table conversation entitled "People's Court: University of Michigan Aftermath" had students discuss the affirmative action case before the Supreme Court that could have far-reaching consequences on the admissions process at institutions of higher education nationwide.

In two cases, Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, a group of white students brought charges against the University of Michigan because they felt that they were denied acceptance to the school because of a point system that favored non-white students.

Race was not the only non-merit-based advantage that certain applicants received, members of the discussion pointed out. Applicants received points based on their socio-economic status, whether they were legacies, and where they lived.

Several students expressed concern about the extent to which this case could affect affirmative action nationwide, if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs.

"I'm not sure how far it would reach to anything else, but I'm sure it would have some effect," Megan Nicholson '04 said.

Certain students believed that the decision in this case will not affect Dartmouth in any way because of differences in the schools and their admission processes.

Others pointed out that Dartmouth receives federal funds and could therefore potentially be affected.

Some also called into question the benefit that affirmative action in university admissions brings. Certain people, such as Anthony Bider-Hall '05, said that it is "noncommittal" and ignores the deeper roots of racial and economic inequity.

"Affirmative action [in higher education admissions] is a pathetic response. A majority of the people will not be affected by this. Things have gotten worse under this system," Bider-Hall said.

He and others said that more needs to be done to improve and equalize primary and secondary education.

Others disagreed and said that affirmative action in higher education has done more good than harm.

Margaret Wilkerson '04 said that the system must be focused more effectively.

"Affirmative action needs to be more clear about what it is trying to do. It shouldn't be helping people who don't need the help," Wilkerson said.

While the Michigan case was the primary topic of conversation, the discussion became a broader exploration and debate of affirmative action in general.

Some pointed out that it is difficult to say what affirmative action is because of its different applications in various areas. Originally, affirmative action was used to benefit a woman or non-white person when deciding between two equal candidates. Many agreed that certain implementations of affirmative action programs today are illegal but are accepted because they are unstated policies.

The Supreme Court ruled on affirmative action in university admissions once before in 1978, but the decision failed to deliver a firm judgment on its legality. While the Court ruled the use of set quotas to ensure a certain number of non-white students unconstitutional, the decision also said, "The goal of achieving a diverse student body is sufficiently compelling to justify consideration of race ... under some circumstances."

Grutter v. Bollinger applies to the University of Michigan Law School, while Gratz v. Bollinger applies to the undergraduate College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

The discussion was part of May Week, a series of events organized by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.