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in a 5-4 decision, the justices upheld a ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that held that the University of Michigan Law School’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body is not prohibited by the equal protection clause, Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act or 42 U.S.C. 1981. Grutter v. Bollinger, No. 02-241. The court endorsed the view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions. The justices rejected as unconstitutional a university’s enrollment of a “critical mass” of minority students simply to assure the presence of some specified percentage of a racial or ethnic group. However, a narrowly tailored admissions program, such as Michigan’s that is “flexible enough to consider all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant, and to place them on the same footing for consideration, although not necessarily according them the same weight,” is constitutional since the program ensures that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes race or ethnicity the defining feature of the application. O’Connor’s opinion was joined by Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer. Rehnquist filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas joined.

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