The University of California at Davis Medical School had a special committee established to administer the special admission programs. There were 16 out of 100 spots in its entering class for members of minority groups – blacks, Asians, Indians, etc – under the program. A white applicant, who was rejected even though other applicants were admitted under the program with grade point averages, test scores and benchmark scores significantly lower than his, challenged the program.
Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination in its own sake and prohibited by the Constitution.
The University of California at Davis Medical School had special admission programs that reserved 16 out of 100 spots in its entering class for members of minority groups. The respondents challenged the program. The Supreme Court of California held the special admissions program unlawful. The petitioner argues that applying strict scrutiny is not appropriate because white males are not a discrete and insular minority requiring extraordinary protection from the majoritarian political process.
Are the university’s special admission programs that reserved 16 out of 100 spots in its entering class for members of minority groups unconstitutional?
Yes, the university’s special admission programs are unlawful because preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination in its own sake and prohibited by the Constitution. The State also failed to demonstrate any legitimate interest in adopting the program.
Justice Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun
Because of the significant risk that racial classifications established for facially benign purposes can be misused, an important and articulated purpose for such use must be shown for it to be justified. The petitioner’s articulated purpose of remedying the effects of past societal discrimination is sufficiently important to justify the use of race-conscious admissions programs where there is a sound basis for concluding that minority under-representation is substantial and chronic and that the legacy of past discrimination is impeding access of minorities to the medical school.
The program also cannot be said to violate the Constitution. simply because it has established a predetermined number of places of minorities. In any admissions program, a determination of the degree of preference to be given is unavoidable and any given preference that results in the exclusion of white applicant is no more or less constitutionally acceptable than a program such as the one here.
Marshall: During the past 200 years, the Court did not interpret the Constitution as prohibiting the most pervasive forms of discrimination against the Blacks. Now, the same Constitution stands as a barrier to the State’s effort to remedy the effects of longstanding discrimination.
The special admissions program purports to serve the purposes of reducing the historical deficit of traditionally disfavored minorities in medical schools. However, the Court has never approved a classification that aids persons regarded as members of minorities at the expense of other innocent individuals in the absence of judicial violations. There is no such findings of constitutional violations and no evidence indicating that petitioner’s special admissions program is either needed or geared to promote the goal of improving health care services to communities. Because the program involves the use of an explicit racial classification, which has burdened other races but not been justified by the State, the program is invalid under the 14th Amendment.