The United States Supreme Court
The University of Michigan Admissions Lawsuits

Gratz v. Bollinger
(No. 02-516 -- June 23, 2003)


NO! Chief Justice REHNQUIST (delivering the Opinion of the Court, joined by Justices O'Connor, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas, pp 1-11, 20-27): The policy, which automatically distributes one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission to every "underrepresented minority" applicant, solely because of race, is not narrowly tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity that respondents claim to pursue.

YES! Justice SOUTER (dissenting, joined by Justice Ginsberg, pp 3-8): A fixed number of points for racial origin, as well as for other contributions to diversity, is consistent with narrow tailoring, and has the advantage of being frank. Although the system here is subject to argument on the merits, it should not be held unconstitutional based on the current record.

Comments by Curtis Crawford,* indented in italics.


Chief Justice Rehnquist, at Page 1

We granted certiorari in this case to decide whether "the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate[s] the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U. S. C. § 2000d), or 42 U. S. C. §1981." Brief for Petitioners i. Because we find that the manner in which the University considers the race of applicants in its undergraduate admissions guidelines violates these constitutional and statutory provisions, we reverse that portion of the District Court's decision upholding the guidelines.



Petitioners Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher both applied for admission to the University of Michigan's (University) College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) as residents of the State of Michigan. Both petitioners are Caucasian. Gratz, who applied for admission for the fall of 1995, was notified in January of that year [-2-] that a final decision regarding her admission had been delayed until April. This delay was based upon the University's determination that, although Gratz was " 'well qualified,' " she was " 'less competitive than the students who ha[d] been admitted on first review.' " App. to Pet. for Cert. 109a. Gratz was notified in April that the LSA was unable to offer her admission. She enrolled in the University of Michigan at Dearborn, from which she graduated in the spring of 1999.

Hamacher applied for admission to the LSA for the fall of 1997. A final decision as to his application was also postponed because, though his " 'academic credentials [were] in the qualified range, they [were] not at the level needed for first review admission.' " Ibid. Hamacher's application was subsequently denied in April 1997, and he enrolled at Michigan State University.1

In October 1997, Gratz and Hamacher filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against the University of Michigan, the LSA,2 James Duderstadt, and Lee Bollinger.3 Petitioners' complaint was a class-action suit alleging "violations and threatened violations of the rights of the plaintiffs and the class they represent to equal protection of the laws under the Fourteenth Amendment ... , and for racial discrimination [-3-] in violation of 42 U. S. C. §§1981, 1983, and 2000d et seq." App. 33. Petitioners sought, inter alia, compensatory and punitive damages for past violations, declaratory relief finding that respondents violated petitioners' "rights to nondiscriminatory treatment," an injunction prohibiting respondents from "continuing to discriminate on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment," and an order requiring the LSA to offer Hamacher admission as a transfer student.4 Id., at 40.

The District Court granted petitioners' motion for class certification after determining that a class action was appropriate pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2). The certified class consisted of "those individuals who applied for and were not granted admission to the College of Literature, Science and the Arts of the University of Michigan for all academic years from 1995 forward and who are members of those racial or ethnic groups, including Caucasian, that defendants treated less favorably on the basis of race in considering their application for admission." App. 70-71. And Hamacher, whose claim the District Court found to challenge a " 'practice of racial discrimination pervasively applied on a classwide basis,' " was designated as the class representative. Id., at 67, 70. The court also granted petitioners' motion to bifurcate the proceedings into a liability and damages phase. Id., at 71. The liability phase was to determine "whether [respondents'] use of race as a factor in admissions decisions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth [-4-] Amendment to the Constitution." Id., at 70.5


The University has changed its admissions guidelines a number of times during the period relevant to this litigation, and we summarize the most significant of these changes briefly. The University's Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) oversees the LSA admissions process.6 In order to promote consistency in the review of the large number of applications received, the OUA uses written guidelines for each academic year. Admissions counselors make admissions decisions in accordance with these guidelines. OUA considers a number of factors in making admissions decisions, including high school grades, standardized test scores, high school quality, curriculum strength, geography, alumni relationships, and leadership. OUA also considers race. During all periods relevant to this litigation, the University has considered African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans to be "underrepresented minorities," and it is undisputed that the University admits "virtually every qualified ... applicant" from these groups. App. to Pet. for Cert. 111a.

During 1995 and 1996, OUA counselors evaluated applications according to grade point average combined with what were referred to as the "SCUGA" factors. These factors included the quality of an applicant's high school (S), the strength of an applicant's high school curriculum (C), an applicant's unusual circumstances (U), an applicant's [-5-] geographical residence (G), and an applicant's alumni relationships (A). After these scores were combined to produce an applicant's "GPA 2" score, the reviewing admissions counselors referenced a set of "Guidelines" tables, which listed GPA 2 ranges on the vertical axis, and American College Test/Scholastic Aptitude Test (ACT/SAT) scores on the horizontal axis. Each table was divided into cells that included one or more courses of action to be taken, including admit, reject, delay for additional information, or postpone for reconsideration.

In both years, applicants with the same GPA 2 score and ACT/SAT score were subject to different admissions outcomes based upon their racial or ethnic status.7 For example, as a Caucasian in-state applicant, Gratz's GPA 2 score and ACT score placed her within a cell calling for a postponed decision on her application. An in-state or out-of-state minority applicant with Gratz's scores would have fallen within a cell calling for admission.

In 1997, the University modified its admissions procedure. Specifically, the formula for calculating an applicant's GPA 2 score was restructured to include additional point values under the "U" category in the SCUGA factors. Under this new system, applicants could receive points for underrepresented minority status, socioeconomic disadvantage, or attendance at a high school with a predominantly underrepresented minority population, or underrepresentation in the unit to which the student was [-6-] applying (for example, men who sought to pursue a career in nursing). Under the 1997 procedures, Hamacher's GPA 2 score and ACT score placed him in a cell on the in-state applicant table calling for postponement of a final admissions decision. An underrepresented minority applicant placed in the same cell would generally have been admitted.

Beginning with the 1998 academic year, the OUA dispensed with the Guidelines tables and the SCUGA point system in favor of a "selection index," on which an applicant could score a maximum of 150 points. This index was divided linearly into ranges generally calling for admissions dispositions as follows: 100-150 (admit); 95-99 (admit or postpone); 90-94 (postpone or admit); 75-89 (delay or postpone); 74 and below (delay or reject). Each application received points based on high school grade point average, standardized test scores, academic quality of an applicant's high school, strength or weakness of high school curriculum, in-state residency, alumni relationship, personal essay, and personal achievement or leadership. *Of particular significance here, under a "miscellaneous" category, an applicant was entitled to 20 points based upon his or her membership in an underrepresented racial or ethnic minority group.* The University explained that the " 'development of the selection index for admissions in 1998 changed only the mechanics, not the substance of how race and ethnicity were considered in admissions.' " App. to Pet. for Cert. 116a.

  * Applicants were also entitled to 20 points for socio-economic disadvantage, attendance at a socioeconomically disadvantaged or predominantly minority high school, athletic distinction, or a letter from the Provost. However, these points could not be added to each other: 20 points was the limit, even if an applicant met more than one of these requirements.

In all application years from 1995 to 1998, *the guidelines provided that qualified applicants from underrepresented minority groups be admitted as soon as possible in light of the University's belief that such applicants were more likely to enroll if promptly notified of their admission.* Also from 1995 through 1998, the University carefully managed its rolling admissions system to permit consideration of certain applications submitted later in the [-7-] academic year through the use of "protected seats." Specific groups--including athletes, foreign students, ROTC candidates, and underrepresented minorities--were "protected categories" eligible for these seats. A committee called the Enrollment Working Group (EWG) projected how many applicants from each of these protected categories the University was likely to receive after a given date and then paced admissions decisions to permit full consideration of expected applications from these groups. If this space was not filled by qualified candidates from the designated groups toward the end of the admissions season, it was then used to admit qualified candidates remaining in the applicant pool, including those on the waiting list.

  * Grab them while you can! Since selective universities place a premium on "underrepresented minority" applicants, the interscholastic competition to enroll them is intense.

During 1999 and 2000, the OUA used the selection index, under which every applicant from an underrepresented racial or ethnic minority group was awarded 20 points. Starting in 1999, however, the University established an Admissions Review Committee (ARC), to provide an additional level of consideration for some applications. Under the new system, counselors may, in their discretion, "flag" an application for the ARC to review after determining that the applicant (1) is academically prepared to succeed at the University,8 (2) has achieved a minimum selection index score, and (3) possesses a quality or characteristic important to the University's composition of its freshman class, such as high class rank, unique life experiences, challenges, circumstances, interests or talents, socioeconomic disadvantage, and underrepresented race, ethnicity, or geography. After reviewing "flagged" applications, the ARC determines whether to admit, defer, or [-8-] deny each applicant.


The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment with respect to liability. Petitioners asserted that the LSA's use of race as a factor in admissions violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 252, 42 U. S. C. §2000d, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Respondents relied on Justice Powell's opinion in Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265 (1978), to respond to petitioners' arguments. As discussed in greater detail in the Court's opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, post, at 10-13, Justice Powell, in Bakke, expressed the view that the consideration of race as a factor in admissions might in some cases serve a compelling government interest. See 438 U. S., at 317. Respondents contended that the LSA has just such an interest in the educational benefits that result from having a racially and ethnically diverse student body and that its program is narrowly tailored to serve that interest. Respondent-intervenors asserted that the LSA had a compelling interest in remedying the University's past and current discrimination against minorities.9

The District Court began its analysis by reviewing this Court's decision in Bakke. See 122 F. Supp. 2d 811, 817 (ED Mich. 2001). Although the court acknowledged that [-9-] no decision from this Court since Bakke has explicitly accepted the diversity rationale discussed by Justice Powell, see 122 F. Supp. 2d, at 820-821, it also concluded that this Court had not, in the years since Bakke, ruled out such a justification for the use of race. 122 F. Supp. 2d, at 820-821. *The District Court concluded that respondents and their amici curiae had presented "solid evidence" that a racially and ethnically diverse student body produces significant educational benefits such that achieving such a student body constitutes a compelling governmental interest.* See id., at 822-824.

The court next considered whether the LSA's admissions guidelines were narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. See id., at 824. Again relying on Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke, the District Court determined that the admissions program the LSA began using in 1999 is a narrowly tailored means of achieving the University's interest in the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body. See 122 F. Supp. 2d, at 827. The court emphasized that the LSA's current program does not utilize rigid quotas or seek to admit a predetermined number of minority students. See ibid. The award of 20 points for membership in an underrepresented minority group, in the District Court's view, was not the functional equivalent of a quota because minority candidates were not insulated from review by virtue of those points. See id., at 828. Likewise, the court rejected the assertion that the LSA's program operates like the two-track system Justice Powell found objectionable in Bakke on the grounds that LSA applicants are not competing for different groups of seats. See 122 F. Supp. 2d, at 828-829. The court also dismissed petitioners' assertion that the LSA's current system is nothing more than a means by which to achieve racial balancing. See id., at 831. The court explained that the LSA does not seek to achieve a certain proportion of minority students, [-10-] let alone a proportion that represents the community. See ibid.

The District Court found the admissions guidelines the LSA used from 1995 through 1998 to be more problematic. In the court's view, the University's prior practice of "protecting" or "reserving" seats for underrepresented minority applicants effectively kept nonprotected applicants from competing for those slots. See id., at 832.

This system, the court concluded, operated as the functional equivalent of a quota and ran afoul of Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke.10 See 122 F. Supp. 2d, at 832. Based on these findings, the court granted petitioners' motion for summary judgment with respect to the LSA's admissions programs in existence from 1995 through 1998, and respondents' motion with respect to the LSA's admissions programs for 1999 and 2000. See id., at 833. Accordingly, the District Court denied petitioners' request for injunctive relief. See id., at 814.

The District Court issued an order consistent with its rulings and certified two questions for interlocutory appeal to the Sixth Circuit pursuant to 28 U. S. C. §1292(b). Both parties appealed aspects of the District Court's rulings, and the Court of Appeals heard the case en banc on the same day as Grutter v. Bollinger. The Sixth Circuit later issued an opinion in Grutter, upholding the admissions program used by the University of Michigan Law School, [-11-] and the petitioner in that case sought a writ of certiorari from this Court. Petitioners asked this Court to grant certiorari in this case as well, despite the fact that the Court of Appeals had not yet rendered a judgment, so that this Court could address the constitutionality of the consideration of race in university admissions in a wider range of circumstances. We did so. See 537 U. S. 1044 (2002).


As they have throughout the course of this litigation, petitioners contend that the University's consideration of race in its undergraduate admissions decisions violates §1 of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,11 Title VI,12 and 42 U. S. C. §1981.13

* * * * *



Petitioners argue, first and foremost, that the University's use of race in undergraduate admissions violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Specifically, they contend that this Court has only sanctioned the use of racial classifications to remedy identified discrimination, a justification on which respondents have never relied. Brief for Petitioners 15-16. Petitioners further argue that "diversity as a basis for employing racial preferences is simply too open-ended, ill-defined, and indefinite to constitute a compelling interest capable of supporting narrowly-tailored means." Id., at 17-18, 40-41. But for the reasons set forth today in Grutter v. Bollinger, post, at 15-21, the Court has rejected these arguments of petitioners.

Petitioners alternatively argue that even if the University's interest in diversity can constitute a compelling state interest, the District Court erroneously concluded that the University's use of race in its current freshman admissions policy is narrowly tailored to achieve such an interest. Petitioners argue that the guidelines the University began using in 1999 do not "remotely resemble the kind of consideration of race and ethnicity that Justice Powell endorsed in Bakke." Brief for Petitioners 18. Respondents reply that the University's current admissions program is narrowly tailored and avoids the problems of the Medical School of the University of California at Davis program (U. C. Davis) rejected by Justice Powell.18 They claim that their program "hews closely" to both [-21-] the admissions program described by Justice Powell as well as the Harvard College admissions program that he endorsed. Brief for Respondents 32. Specifically, respondents contend that the LSA's policy provides the individualized consideration that "Justice Powell considered a hallmark of a constitutionally appropriate admissions program." Id., at 35. For the reasons set out below, we do not agree.

It is by now well established that "all racial classifications reviewable under the Equal Protection Clause must be strictly scrutinized." Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peņa, 515 U. S. 200, 224 (1995). This " 'standard of review ... is not dependent on the race of those burdened or benefited by a particular classification.' " Ibid. (quoting Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S. 469, 494 (1989) (plurality opinion)). Thus, "any person, of whatever race, has the right to demand that any governmental actor subject to the Constitution justify any racial classification subjecting that person to unequal treatment under the strictest of judicial scrutiny." Adarand, 515 U. S., at 224.

To withstand our strict scrutiny analysis, respondents must demonstrate that the University's use of race in its [-22-] current admission program employs "narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests." Id., at 227. Because "[r]acial classifications are simply too pernicious to permit any but the most exact connection between justification and classification," Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U. S. 448, 537 (1980) (Stevens, J., dissenting), our review of whether such requirements have been met must entail " 'a most searching examination.' " Adarand, supra, at 223 (quoting Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267, 273 (1986) (plurality opinion of Powell, J.)). *We find that the University's policy, which automatically distributes 20 points, or one-fifth of the points needed to guarantee admission, to every single "underrepresented minority" applicant solely because of race, is not narrowly tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity that respondents claim justifies their program.*


* The Court holds the LSA's admissions policy" to be "not narrowly tailored" to achieve "educational diversity," because the racial boost it confers is always the same amount, which is substantial, and goes to every "underrepresented minority applicant solely because of [his or her] race."

Commenting on Grutter v. Bollinger, I chided the Court for failing to specify what it meant by "diversity," the key word in its decision. In the dictionary, "diversity" means difference or variety; its opposite is "similarity." Unspecified, both words can apply to anything that exists, and may be good or bad depending on the circumstances. Having failed to specify its key word as to kind and amount, the Court undertook two logically impossible tasks. It purported to determine whether student body "diversity," thus unspecified, is a "compelling interest," and whether the Law School's use of race was "narrowly tailored" to achieve it. These tasks are logically impossible, I argued, since there is no way of knowing whether difference, unspecified as to kind and amount, is good or bad, let alone essential. Likewise, there is no way of knowing whether a particular means to achieve an unspecified kind and amount of difference is narrowly tailored.

Logic to the contrary notwithstanding, the Grutter Court held "student body diversity" a "compelling interest," and the Law School's admissions policy a "narrowly tailored" means of achieving it. This was largely accomplished by adopting Justice Powell's rationale in Bakke, which opined that "student body diversity" is a "compelling interest," and offered criteria for determining whether racial admissions policies are narrowly tailored to this goal. No inquiry concerning the meaning or scope of "diversity," no specification as to what kind and how much, occurred or was contemplated in the Grutter Court's Opinion.

Is the logical impossibility I assert therefore imaginary? Not at all. It was not exploded, but simply finessed. Some general evidence and reasons were mentioned, but most of the buck was passed to Justice Powell. Such a move would be appropriate, had Justice Powell's rationale been the Opinion of the Bakke Court, and therefore binding as precedent. However, the Grutter Court, acknowledging yet refusing to settle the legal dispute concerning the authority of the Powell rationale, decided simply to agree with it. This, the Court was free to do, if it justified its assent. A justification would require a cogent argument that Justice Powell's conclusion that student body "diversity" is a "compelling interest," and his criteria for narrow tailoring, were warranted. But such an argument would have to march straight into the impossibility. There is no way of determining whether student body "diversity," unspecified as to kind and amount, is "compelling," or whether any proffered means is "narrowly tailored" to achieve it.

The Grutter Court having adopted Justice Powell's guidelines for determining whether a racial admissions program is narrowly tailored to the goal of educational "diversity," the Gratz Court is bound thereby. Although no foundation for Justice Powell's guidelines is available, the Supreme Court has made its decision and moved on.

In Bakke, Justice Powell reiterated that "[p]referring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake." 438 U. S., at 307. He then explained, however, that in his view it would be permissible for a university to employ an admissions program in which "race or ethnic background may be deemed a 'plus' in a particular applicant's file." Id., at 317. He explained that such a program might allow for "[t]he file of a particular black applicant [to] be examined for his potential contribution to diversity without the factor of race being decisive when compared, for example, with that of an applicant identified as an Italian-American if the latter is thought to exhibit qualities more likely to promote beneficial educational pluralism." Ibid. Such a system, in Justice Powell's view, would be "flexible enough to consider all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant." Ibid.

Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke emphasized the importance of considering each particular applicant as an individual, assessing all of the qualities that individual [-23-] possesses, and in turn, evaluating that individual's ability to contribute to the unique setting of higher education. The admissions program Justice Powell described, however, did not contemplate that any single characteristic automatically ensured a specific and identifiable contribution to a university's diversity. See id., at 315. See also Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC, 497 U. S. 547, 618 (1990) (O'Connor, J., dissenting) (concluding that the FCC's policy, which "embodie[d] the related notions that a particular applicant, by virtue of race or ethnicity alone, is more valued than other applicants because [the applicant is] 'likely to provide [a] distinct perspective,' "impermissibly value[d] individuals" based on a presumption that "persons think in a manner associated with their race"). Instead, under the approach Justice Powell described, each characteristic of a particular applicant was to be considered in assessing the applicant's entire application.

The current LSA policy does not provide such individualized consideration. The LSA's policy automatically distributes 20 points to every single applicant from an "underrepresented minority" group, as defined by the University. The only consideration that accompanies this distribution of points is a factual review of an application to determine whether an individual is a member of one of these minority groups. Moreover, unlike Justice Powell's example, where the race of a "particular black applicant" could be considered without being decisive, see Bakke, 438 U. S., at 317, the LSA's automatic distribution of 20 points has the effect of making "the factor of race ... decisive" for virtually every minimally qualified underrepresented minority applicant. Ibid.19

[-24-] Also instructive in our consideration of the LSA's system is the example provided in the description of the Harvard College Admissions Program, which Justice Powell both discussed in, and attached to, his opinion in Bakke. The example was included to "illustrate the kind of significance attached to race" under the Harvard College program. Id., at 324. It provided as follows:

  "The Admissions Committee, with only a few places left to fill, might find itself forced to choose between A, the child of a successful black physician in an academic community with promise of superior academic performance, and B, a black who grew up in an inner-city ghetto of semi-literate parents whose academic achievement was lower but who had demonstrated energy and leadership as well as an apparently abiding interest in black power. If a good number of black students much like A but few like B had already been admitted, the Committee might prefer B; and vice versa. If C, a white student with extraordinary artistic talent, were also seeking one of the remaining places, his unique quality might give him an edge over both A and B. Thus, the critical criteria are often individual qualities or experience not dependent upon race but sometimes associated with it." Ibid. (emphasis added).

This example further demonstrates the problematic nature of the LSA's admissions system. Even if student C's "extraordinary artistic talent" rivaled that of Monet or Picasso, the applicant would receive, at most, five points under the LSA's system. See App. 234-235. At the same time, every single underrepresented minority applicant, including students A and B, would automatically receive 20 points for submitting an application. Clearly, the LSA's system does not offer applicants the individualized selection process described in Harvard's example. Instead [-25-] of considering how the differing backgrounds, experiences, and characteristics of students A, B, and C might benefit the University, admissions counselors reviewing LSA applications would simply award both A and B 20 points because their applications indicate that they are African-American, and student C would receive up to 5 points for his "extraordinary talent."20

Respondents emphasize the fact that the LSA has created the possibility of an applicant's file being flagged for individualized consideration by the ARC. We think that the flagging program only emphasizes the flaws of the University's system as a whole when compared to that described by Justice Powell. Again, students A, B, and C illustrate the point. First, student A would never be flagged. This is because, as the University has conceded, the effect of automatically awarding 20 points is that virtually every qualified underrepresented minority applicant is admitted. Student A, an applicant "with promise of superior academic performance," would certainly fit this description. Thus, the result of the automatic distribution of 20 points is that the University would never consider student A's individual background, experiences, and characteristics to assess his individual "potential contribution to diversity," Bakke, supra, at 317. Instead, every applicant like student A would simply be admitted.

It is possible that students B and C would be flagged and considered as individuals. This assumes that student B was not already admitted because of the automatic 20-point distribution, and that student C could muster at least 70 additional points. But the fact that the "review [-26-] committee can look at the applications individually and ignore the points," once an application is flagged, Tr. of Oral Arg. 42, is of little comfort under our strict scrutiny analysis. The record does not reveal precisely how many applications are flagged for this individualized consideration, but it is undisputed that such consideration is the exception and not the rule in the operation of the LSA's admissions program. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 117a ("The ARC reviews only a portion of all of the applications. The bulk of admissions decisions are executed based on selection index score parameters set by the EWG").21 Additionally, this individualized review is only provided after admissions counselors automatically distribute the University's version of a "plus" that makes race a decisive factor for virtually every minimally qualified underrepresented minority applicant.


A helpful example, appearing in the last paragraph of a three-page Appendix to Justice Powell's Opinion, is given here the attention and authority ordinarily reserved for a major principle.

Respondents contend that "[t]he volume of applications and the presentation of applicant information make it impractical for [LSA] to use the ... admissions system" upheld by the Court today in Grutter. Brief for Respondents 6, n. 8. But the fact that the implementation of a program capable of providing individualized consideration [-27-] might present administrative challenges does not render constitutional an otherwise problematic system. See J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S., at 508 (citing Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U. S. 677, 690 (1973) (plurality opinion of Brennan, J.) (rejecting " 'administrative convenience' " as a determinant of constitutionality in the face of a suspect classification)). Nothing in Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke signaled that a university may employ whatever means it desires to achieve the stated goal of diversity without regard to the limits imposed by our strict scrutiny analysis.

We conclude, therefore, that because the University's use of race in its current freshman admissions policy is not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents' asserted compelling interest in diversity, the admissions policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.22 We further find that the admissions policy also violates Title VI and 42 U. S. C. § 1981.23 Accordingly, we reverse that portion of the District Court's decision granting respondents summary judgment with respect to liability and remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

Footnote 1 Although Hamacher indicated that he "intend[ed] to apply to transfer if the [LSA's] discriminatory admissions system [is] eliminated," he has since graduated from Michigan State University. App. 34. [return to text]

Footnote 2 The University of Michigan Board of Regents was subsequently named as the proper defendant in place of the University and the LSA. See id., at 17. [return to text]

Footnote 3 Duderstadt was the president of the University during the time that Gratz's application was under consideration. He has been sued in his individual capacity. Bollinger was the president of the University when Hamacher applied for admission. He was originally sued in both his individual and official capacities, but he is no longer the president of the University. Id., at 35. [return to text]

Footnote 4 A group of African-American and Latino students who applied for, or intended to apply for, admission to the University, as well as the Citizens for Affirmative Action's Preservation, a nonprofit organization in Michigan, sought to intervene pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24. See App. 13-14. The District Court originally denied this request, see id., at 14-15, but the Sixth Circuit reversed that decision. See Gratz v. Bollinger, 188 F. 3d 394 (1999). [return to text]

Footnote 5 The District Court decided also to consider petitioners' request for injunctive and declaratory relief during the liability phase of the proceedings. App. 71. [return to text]

Footnote 6 Our description is taken, in large part, from the "Joint Proposed Summary of Undisputed Facts Regarding Admissions Process" filed by the parties in the District Court. App. to Pet. for Cert. 108a-117a. [return to text]

Footnote 7 In 1995, counselors used four such tables for different groups of applicants: (1) in-state, nonminority applicants; (2) out-of-state, non-minority applicants; (3) in-state, minority applicants; and (4) out-of-state, minority applicants. In 1996, only two tables were used, one for in-state applicants and one for out-of-state applicants. But each cell on these two tables contained separate courses of action for minority applicants and nonminority applicants whose GPA 2 scores and ACT/SAT scores placed them in that cell. [return to text]

Footnote 8 LSA applicants who are Michigan residents must accumulate 80 points from the selection index criteria to be flagged, while out-of-state applicants need to accumulate 75 points to be eligible for such consideration. See App. 257. [return to text]

Footnote 9 The District Court considered and rejected respondent-intervenors' arguments in a supplemental opinion and order. See 135 F. Supp. 2d 790 (ED Mich. 2001). The court explained that respondent-intervenors "failed to present any evidence that the discrimination alleged by them, or the continuing effects of such discrimination, was the real justification for the LSA's race-conscious admissions programs." Id., at 795. We agree, and to the extent respondent-intervenors reassert this justification, a justification the University has never asserted throughout the course of this litigation, we affirm the District Court's disposition of the issue. [return to text]

Footnote 10 The District Court determined that respondents Bollinger and Duderstadt, who were sued in their individual capacities under Rev. Stat. §1979, 42 U. S. C. §1983, were entitled to summary judgment based on the doctrine of qualified immunity. See 122 F. Supp. 2d, at 833-834. Petitioners have not asked this Court to review this aspect of the District Court's decision. The District Court denied the Board of Regents' motion for summary judgment with respect to petitioners' Title VI claim on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds. See id., at 834-836. Respondents have not asked this Court to review this aspect of the District Court's decision. [return to text]

Footnote 11 The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment explains that "[n]o State shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." [return to text]

Footnote 12 Title VI provides that "[n]o person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." 42 U. S. C. §2000d. [return to text]

Footnote 13 Section 1981(a) provides that: "All persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, ... and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens." [return to text]

Footnote 18 U. C. Davis set aside 16 of the 100 seats available in its first year medical school program for "economically and/or educationally disadvantaged" applicants who were also members of designated "minority groups" as defined by the university. "To the extent that there existed a pool of at least minimally qualified minority applicants to fill the 16 special admissions seats, white applicants could compete only for 84 seats in the entering class, rather than the 100 open to minority applicants." Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265, 274, 289 (1978) (principal opinion). Justice Powell found that the program employed an impermissible two-track system that "disregard[ed] . . . individual rights as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment." Id., at 315. He reached this conclusion even though the university argued that "the reservation of a specified number of seats in each class for individuals from the preferred ethnic groups" was "the only effective means of serving the interest of diversity." Ibid. Justice Powell concluded that such arguments misunderstood the very nature of the diversity he found to be compelling. See ibid. [return to text]

Footnote 19 Justice Souter recognizes that the LSA's use of race is decisive in practice, but he attempts to avoid that fact through unsupported speculation about the self-selection of minorities in the applicant pool. See Post, at 6 (dissenting opinion). [return to text]

Footnote 20 Justice Souter is therefore wrong when he contends that "applicants to the undergraduate college are [not] denied individualized consideration." Post, at 6. As Justice O'Connor explains in her concurrence, the LSA's program "ensures that the diversity contributions of applicants cannot be individually assessed." Post, at 4. [return to text]

Footnote 21 Justice Souter is mistaken in his assertion that the Court "take[s] it upon itself to apply a newly formulated legal standard to an undeveloped record." Post, at 7, n. 3. He ignores the fact that the respondents have told us all that is necessary to decide this case. As explained above, respondents concede that only a portion of the applications are reviewed by the ARC and that the "bulk of admissions decisions" are based on the point system. It should be readily apparent that the availability of this review, which comes after the automatic distribution of points, is far more limited than the individualized review given to the "large middle group of applicants" discussed by Justice Powell and described by the Harvard plan in Bakke. 438 U. S., at 316 (internal quotation marks omitted). [return to text]

Footnote 22 Justice Ginsburg in her dissent observes that "[o]ne can reasonably anticipate . . . that colleges and universities will seek to maintain their minority enrollment . . . whether or not they can do so in full candor through adoption of affirmative action plans of the kind here at issue." Post, at 7-8. She goes on to say that "[i]f honesty is the best policy, surely Michigan's accurately described, fully disclosed College affirmative action program is preferable to achieving similar numbers through winks, nods, and disguises." Post, at 8. These observations are remarkable for two reasons. First, they suggest that universities--to whose academic judgment we are told in Grutter v. Bollinger, post, at 16, we should defer--will pursue their affirmative-action programs whether or not they violate the United States Constitution. Second, they recommend that these violations should be dealt with, not by requiring the universities to obey the Constitution, but by changing the Constitution so that it conforms to the conduct of the universities. [return to text]

Footnote 23 We have explained that discrimination that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment committed by an institution that accepts federal funds also constitutes a violation of Title VI. See Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U. S. 275, 281 (2001); United States v. Fordice, 505 U. S. 717, 732, n. 7 (1992); Alexander v. Choate, 469 U. S. 287, 293 (1985). Likewise, with respect to §1981, we have explained that the provision was "meant, by its broad terms, to proscribe discrimination in the making or enforcement of contracts against, or in favor of, any race." McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co., 427 U. S. 273, 295-296 (1976). Furthermore, we have explained that a contract for educational services is a "contract" for purposes of §1981. See Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U. S. 160, 172 (1976). Finally, purposeful discrimination that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment will also violate §1981. See General Building Contractors ontractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 389-390 (1982). [return to text]

Justice Souter, at page 3


The cases now contain two pointers toward the line between the valid and the unconstitutional in race-conscious admissions schemes. Grutter reaffirms the permissibility of individualized consideration of race to achieve a diversity of students, at least where race is not assigned a preordained value in all cases. On the other hand, Justice Powell's opinion in Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265 (1978), rules out a racial quota or set-aside, in which race is the sole fact of eligibility for certain places in a class. Although the freshman admissions system here is subject to argument on the merits, *I think it is closer to what Grutter approves* than to what Bakke condemns, and should not be held unconstitutional on the current record.

  * But Grutter has approved not only the Law School's admissions program, but also Justice Powell's Bakke guidelines for judgments concerning narrow tailoring. Isn't the question, whether "the freshman admissions system . . . is closer to what" Powell "approves than to what" Powell "condemns"?

The record does not describe a system with a quota like the one struck down in Bakke, which "insulate[d]" all nonminority candidates from competition from certain seats. Bakke, supra, at 317 (opinion of Powell, J.); see also Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S. 469, 496 (1989) (plurality opinion) (stating that Bakke invalidated "a plan that completely eliminated nonminorities from consideration for a specified percentage of opportunities"). The Bakke [-4-] plan "focused solely on ethnic diversity" and effectively told nonminority applicants that "[n]o matter how strong their qualifications, quantitative and extracurricular, including their own potential for contribution to educational diversity, they are never afforded the chance to compete with applicants from the preferred groups for the [set-aside] special admissions seats." Bakke, supra, at 315, 319 (opinion of Powell, J.) (emphasis in original).

The plan here, in contrast, lets all applicants compete for all places and values an applicant's offering for any place not only on grounds of race, but on grades, test scores, strength of high school, quality of course of study, residence, alumni relationships, leadership, personal character, socioeconomic disadvantage, athletic ability, and quality of a personal essay. Ante, at 6. A nonminority applicant who scores highly in these other categories can readily garner a selection index exceeding that of a minority applicant who gets the 20-point bonus. Cf. Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara Cty., 480 U. S. 616, 638 (1987) (upholding a program in which gender "was but one of numerous factors [taken] into account in arriving at [a] decision" because "[n]o persons are automatically excluded from consideration; all are able to have their qualifications weighed against those of other applicants" (emphasis deleted)).

Subject to one qualification to be taken up below, this scheme of considering, through the selection index system, all of the characteristics that the college thinks relevant to student diversity for every one of the student places to be filled fits Justice Powell's description of a constitutionally acceptable program: one that considers "all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant" and places each element "on the same footing for consideration, although not necessarily according them the same weight." Bakke, supra, at 317. In the Court's own words, "each characteristic of a particular [-5-] applicant [is] considered in assessing the applicant's entire application." Ante, at 23. *An unsuccessful nonminority applicant cannot complain that he was rejected "simply because he was not the right color"; an applicant who is rejected because "his combined qualifications ... did not outweigh those of the other applicant" has been given an opportunity to compete with all other applicants. Bakke, supra, at 318 (opinion of Powell, J.).*

  * There is no necessary contradiction between the two quoted examples. It may be true both that A's "combined qualifications . . . did not outweigh those of" B, and that A "was rejected simply because he was not the right color," if in fact A would have been accepted had he received the 20-point bonus awarded all applicants of the "right color."

The one qualification to this description of the admissions process is that membership in an underrepresented minority is given a weight of 20 points on the 150-point scale. On the face of things, however, this assignment of specific points does not set race apart from all other weighted considerations. Nonminority students may receive 20 points for athletic ability, socioeconomic disadvantage, attendance at a socioeconomically disadvantaged or predominantly minority high school, or at the Provost's discretion; they may also receive 10 points for being residents of Michigan, 6 for residence in an underrepresented Michigan county, 5 for leadership and service, and so on.

The Court nonetheless finds fault with a scheme that "automatically" distributes 20 points to minority applicants because "[t]he only consideration that accompanies this distribution of points is a factual review of an application to determine whether an individual is a member of one of these minority groups." Ante, at 23. *The objection goes to the use of points to quantify and compare characteristics,* or to the number of points awarded due to race, but on either reading the objection is mistaken.

  * No, the objection goes to the one-number-of-points-fits-all approach. Taking Justice Souter's examples in the next paragraph, a college that awarded the same number of points to every applicant with some (regardless of how much) "reasoning ability" or "writing style" would not get the best reasoners and writers. Powell thought that individuals would vary significantly in how much they might reasonably be thought to contribute to a particular aspect of a university's desired mix.

The very nature of a college's permissible practice of awarding value to racial diversity means that race must be considered in a way that increases some applicants' chances for admission. Since college admission is not left entirely to inarticulate intuition, it is hard to see what is inappropriate in assigning some stated value to a relevant characteristic, whether it be reasoning ability, writing [-6-] style, running speed, or minority race. Justice Powell's plus factors necessarily are assigned some values. The college simply does by a numbered scale what the law school accomplishes in its "holistic review," Grutter, post, at 25; the distinction does not imply that applicants to the undergraduate college are denied individualized consideration or a fair chance to compete on the basis of all the various merits their applications may disclose.

Nor is it possible to say that the 20 points convert race into a decisive factor comparable to reserving minority places as in Bakke. Of course we can conceive of a point system in which the "plus" factor given to minority applicants would be so extreme as to guarantee every minority applicant a higher rank than every nonminority applicant in the university's admissions system, see 438 U. S., at 319, n. 53 (opinion of Powell, J.). But petitioners do not have a convincing argument that the freshman admissions system operates this way. The present record obviously shows that nonminority applicants may achieve higher selection point totals than minority applicants owing to characteristics other than race, and the fact that the university admits "virtually every qualified under-represented minority applicant," App. to Pet. for Cert. 111a, may reflect nothing more than the likelihood that very few qualified minority applicants apply, Brief for Respondents Bollinger et al. 39, as well as the possibility that self-selection results in a strong minority applicant pool. It suffices for me, as it did for the District Court, that there are no Bakke-like set-asides and that consideration of an applicant's whole spectrum of ability is no more ruled out by giving 20 points for race than by giving the same points for athletic ability or socioeconomic disadvantage.

  It is true that "20 points for race" is no more "decisive" than "the same points for athletic ability or socioeconomic disadvantage." Of course, as Souter knows, a public university's discrimination in the latter two cases is not presumptively unconstitutional, whereas its racial discrimination is. The "20 points" is 20% of the total that guarantees admission, and equals the difference between a high-school average of A rather than B. Apparently, the racial advantage at Michigan would not bother Souter unless it were "so extreme as to guarantee every minority applicant a higher rank than every nonminority applicant in the university's admissions system." Powell's guidelines seek a compromise between strict racial nondiscrimination and all-out racial preference. Souter here seems much closer to the latter pole.

Any argument that the "tailoring" amounts to a set-aside, then, boils down to the claim that a plus factor of 20 points makes some observers suspicious, where a factor of [-7-] 10 points might not. But suspicion does not carry petitioners' ultimate burden of persuasion in this constitutional challenge, Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267, 287-288 (1986) (plurality opinion of Powell, J.), and it surely does not warrant condemning the college's admissions scheme on this record. Because the District Court (correctly, in my view) did not believe that the specific point assignment was constitutionally troubling, it made only limited and general findings on other characteristics of the university's admissions practice, such as the conduct of individualized review by the Admissions Review Committee. 122 F. Supp. 2d 811, 829-830 (ED Mich. 2000). As the Court indicates, we know very little about the actual role of the review committee. Ante, at 26 ("The record does not reveal precisely how many applications are flagged for this individualized consideration [by the committee]"); see also ante, at 4 (O'Connor, J., concurring) ("The evidence in the record ... reveals very little about how the review committee actually functions"). The point system cannot operate as a de facto set-aside if the greater admissions process, including review by the committee, results in individualized review sufficient to meet the Court's standards. Since the record is quiet, if not silent, on the case-by-case work of the committee, the Court would be on more defensible ground by vacating and remanding for evidence about the committee's specific determinations.3

[-8-] Without knowing more about how the Admissions Review Committee actually functions, it seems especially unfair to treat the candor of the admissions plan as an Achilles' heel. In contrast to the college's forthrightness in saying just what plus factor it gives for membership in an underrepresented minority, it is worth considering the character of one alternative thrown up as preferable, because supposedly not based on race. Drawing on admissions systems used at public universities in California, Florida, and Texas, the United States contends that Michigan could get student diversity in satisfaction of its compelling interest by guaranteeing admission to a fixed percentage of the top students from each high school in Michigan. Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 18; Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae in Grutter v. Bollinger, O. T. 2002, No. 02-241, pp. 13-17.

While there is nothing unconstitutional about such a practice, it nonetheless suffers from a serious disadvantage.4 It is the disadvantage of deliberate obfuscation. The "percentage plans" are just as race conscious as the point scheme (and fairly so), but they get their racially diverse results without saying directly what they are doing or why they are doing it. In contrast, Michigan states its purpose directly and, if this were a doubtful case for me, I would be tempted to give Michigan an extra point of its own for its frankness. Equal protection cannot become an exercise in which the winners are the ones who hide the ball.

* * * * *

Footnote 3 The Court surmises that the committee does not contribute meaningfully to the University's individualized review of applications. Ante, at 25-26. The Court should not take it upon itself to apply a newly-formulated legal standard to an undeveloped record. Given the District Court's statement that the committee may examine "any number of applicants, including applicants other than under-represented minority applicants," 122 F. Supp. 2d 811, 830 (ED Mich. 2000), it is quite possible that further factual development would reveal the committee to be a "source of individualized consideration" sufficient to satisfy the Court's rule, ante, at 4 [return to text]

Footnote 4 Of course it might be pointless in the State of Michigan, where minorities are a much smaller fraction of the population than in California, Florida, or Texas. Brief for Respondents Bollinger et al. 48-49. [return to text]