ARE AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS FAIR?
REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA VS. BAKKE
In the 1970s, the government urged employers and schools to adopt affirmative action programs. These programs aimed to increase the number of women and minority group members in college, post graduate schools, and higher-paying jobs. The goal was the makeup from past discrimination against these groups. Did those programs now discriminate against white males?
The Facts The Issue The Decision
• Allan Bakke, a white man, was twice denied admission to a University of California medical school
• Bakke had a stronger academic record than 16 minority group applicants that the school had accepted under a special program • Bakke claimed that his rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment had been violated • 5 Justices agreed that racial quotas violated Bakke’s rights
• One of those Justices and four others agreed that race could be a factor in admissions decisions
WHY IT MATTERS
Some people predicted that Bakke would end affirmative action. That did not happen, however. Justice Lewis Powell was the key figure in the Court’s complex statements on the issue. He agreed with four Justices that quotas were not acceptable, but he also agreed with the other four that using race as a factor in admissions was acceptable. Powell favored using race as a “plus factor”, just like artistic or musical ability, athletic talent, or other factors.
After the Court’s decision, universities dropped quotas systems. Many also followed Powell’s opinion by setting up programs that considered a person’s race as one factor among many.
CONNECT TO YOUR WORLD
In 2003, the court’s visited the issue again. In Grutter V. Bollinger, a 5-4 majority ruled that a law school’s admissions policy met the standards of Bakke by using race as part of the process but not as a deciding factor. Read more about the case, then take the role of a newspaper editor and write an editorial agreeing or disagreeing with the Court’s decision.