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Gratz v. Bollinger

Citation. 539 U.S. 244 (2003)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Gratz applied to the University of Michigan and was denied. She sued to challenge UM’s admissions policy, which used race as a factor.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

When race is a factor in university admissions, it should be narrowly tailored to achieve diversity.


Gratz applied to the University of Michigan and was denied. At the time, UM had a 150-point scale to rank applicants with 100 points needed to guarantee admission. UM gave underrepresented ethnic groups an automatic 20-point bonus.


Is the University of Michigan’s race-conscious admissions policy constitutional?


No, it is not.


Justice Ginsburg (with Souter, Breyer)

We are not that far from times when there was overt discrimination. Programs like UM’s are appropriate measures to address the disparities that still exist and opening doors for minority applicants.


Justice O’Connor (with Breyer)

There is no meaningful individualized review here, which is inappropriate under strict scrutiny. The points for being a minority is much greater than any points for leadership roles, etc. The emphasis on race is too much.


Classifications of race automatically get strict scrutiny. Thus, UM needs to show that its program is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest.

The current policy does not meet that test. It gives automatic points, and it makes the amount of points high enough to be significant for an applicant’s application. Thus, it is not narrowly tailored.

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