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Supreme Court: Point-Based Admissions is Unconstitutional

Aired June 23, 2003 - 19:02   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: First, the Supreme Court handed down much anticipated rulings on the issue of affirmative action today. The landmark decision says the University of Michigan can use race as an admission factor for its law school. The court overturned its point system for using race in undergraduate admissions.
Jeff Flock went to the Michigan campus to gauge reactions to the split decision.


JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We watch as Agnes Aliabua (ph) spreads the word on the Ann Arbor campus.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Didn't you hear? Yes, yes. We won. They upheld the law school case.

FLOCK: The University of Michigan can consider race in deciding who it lets in.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know that my test scores and GPA is lower.

FLOCK: Without that affirmative action, Agnes, a senior education major, admits to us, she wouldn't be here.

(on camera) So why do you belong here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Black and minority students do score lower on their tests; they do have lower GPAs. But that doesn't say anything about their mental capacity, about their intelligence.

FLOCK (voice-over): "That's no fair," says junior business major and young Republican Mike Phillips.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eventually, you know, as people work up, the university will level out. But in general, people should be here based on what they've accomplished.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do we got?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Affirmative action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Affirmative action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Affirmative action. FLOCK: The court did throw out the undergraduate admissions policy that gave 20 extra points out of 150 to students just for being black, Hispanic or Native American.

It upheld the more subjective law school plan, which new dean Evan Caminker administers.

(on camera) You don't have a point system. What do you do?

EVAN CAMINKER, U. MICHIGAN LAW SCHOOL DEAN: That's correct. We look at every single application individually. We look at a student's objective as well as intangible factors, work experience, where they grew up, geography.

FLOCK (voice-over): Will that mean some white students who look better on paper don't get accepted in favor of minorities? Probably.

(on camera) If you didn't get, even though you had better scores than somebody, wouldn't that make you mad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, actually not. A majority of the students, I believe, who are qualified to come here. So it's not a matter of picking the most qualified, it is the matter of building the best student body.

FLOCK (voice-over): And the best student body, according to this and many other schools, is a racially diverse student body. On this, the Supreme Court seems to agree.

(on camera) Anderson, on the minds of everyone on this campus tonight is just how will this all play out? Say what you will about the point system, at least everyone understood it. Apparently, it will be replaced by a system whereby race will be a factor but no one tonight, Anderson, is pinning down for us definitively how much of a factor.


COOPER: All right. Jeff Flock, thanks very much.

No doubt the controversy on this thing has not gone away. We'll be following it closely.

As we noted, the court upheld one use of affirmative action but overturned another in the rulings issued today. The Bush administration had filed briefs seeking to have both programs overturned.

White House correspondent Dana Bash is in New York with President Bush and has more reaction to today's court rulings -- Dana.


DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Because there was a mixed ruling from the Supreme Court on the University of Michigan's affirmative actions programs there's something in it to apply for everyone. And the White House is applauding the fact that the court, they say, upheld the idea of diversity on the nation's campuses, but also struck down a program they say was flawed.

Now, the president put out a statement today saying, quote, "Today's decisions seek a careful balance between the goal of campus diversity and the fundamental principle of equal treatment under the law."

Now, the White House in January filed a friend of the court brief, opposing the University of Michigan's affirmative actions programs. And White House aides say that they are happy about the fact that they struck down the so-called points system in the undergraduate school, because they say it is akin to quotas and it is what the president himself said back in January, unconstitutional.

Now, the president's policy on affirmative action, his senior aides say, continues to be to strive for diversity but in a race neutral and innovative way. They point as an example to a program in his home state of Texas, which allows the top 10 percent of high school graduates to attend any university, regardless of their race.

This issue continues to be politically dicey for the president, because conservatives in his own party had hoped that he would oppose affirmative action on a more broad level, beyond just the university system.

Meanwhile, his campaign is gearing up and in 2004, he is going to push his compassionate conservative agenda again. That includes trying to court the Hispanic and black vote. And the black vote is something that president lost 9-1 against Al Gore in the year 2000.

Dana Bash, CNN, New York.



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