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Gratz v. Bollinger

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

The petitioners challenged the admissions program of the University of Michigan alleging that it treated them less favorably on the basis of race in considering their application for admission.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

All racial classifications reviewable under the Equal Protection Clause must be strictly scrutinized and respondents must demonstrate that the University’s use of race in its admission program employs narrowly tailored measures that further compelling governmental interests.


Petitioners Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher applied for admission to the University of Michigan as residents of the State of Michigan. The University denied them admission. The University has considered African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans to be underrepresented minorities and the University admits virtually every qualified applicant from these groups. Each application received points based on high school grade point average, standardized test scores, academic qualify of an applicant’s high school and so on. Of particular significance here, under a miscellaneous category, an applicant was entitled to 20 points based upon his membership in an underrepresented racial or minority group.


Does the University of Michigan’s use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause?


Yes, the manner in which the University considers the race of applicants in its undergraduate admissions guidelines violates the constitutional and statutory provisions. Moreover, the university’s policy, which automatically distributes 20 points to every single underrepresented minority applicant solely because of race is not tailored to achieve the interest in educational diversity that respondents claim justifies their program.


Justice Ginsburg

There is no suggestion that the university’s program unduly constricts admissions opportunities for students who do not receive special consideration based on race. Without recourse to candid affirmative action plans, institutions of higher education may resort to camouflage. A fully disclosed college affirmative action program is preferable to achieving similar numbers through winks, nods, and disguises.


Justice Thomas

Under today’s decisions, a university may not racially discriminate between the groups constituting the critical mass.


Respondents claim that the volume of applications and the presentation of application information make it impractical for the admissions office to use the admissions system upheld by the Court in Grutter. But the fact that the implementation of a program capable of providing individualized consideration might present administrative challenges does not make constitutional an otherwise problematic system. 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.

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