In the Spotlight

News & Features
Your Voice
DocumentJoin the conversation with other MPR listeners in the News Forum.

DocumentE-mail this pageDocumentPrint this page
Supreme Court ruling won't affect Minnesota schools
Larger view
University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks and Mark Rotenberg, chief counsel for the U, react to the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. (MPR Photo/Marisa Helms)
Officials from Minnesota's public and private colleges say they're pleased with the long-awaited U.S. Supreme Court decision on affirmative action. The court ruled that race can still be used as a factor in college admissions decisions, if it is used sparingly.

St. Paul, Minn. — University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks says he expects no changes at the university in response to the high court's ruling. Bruininks says the U is committed to diversity. He says applicants are evaluated "holistically" through a painstaking individual review process that takes into account several factors including race.

He says the court's decision affirms the university's admissions policies.

"The court notes, and we agree, that diversity helps to achieve important educational goals. Diversity challenges our stereotypes and in doing so helps us grow individually and collectively. It strengthens our community on campus and beyond by teaching us to appreciate each person's contributions to our academic community and society at large," Bruininks said.

The Supreme Court's 5-to-4 vote upheld the University of Michigan Law School's use of race in its admissions policy. But in a 6-to-3 split decision, the court found the undergraduate admissions process at Michigan unconstitutional. The court abolishes the university's point system, whereby minority applicants are given a high number in a point scoring system used to evaluate applicants.

Higher education officials say most, if not all of Minnesota's colleges and universities do not use point systems.

Officials from the College of St. Catherine, a private Catholic women's college in St. Paul, say they too are pleased with the ruling.

Cal Mosely, who is responsible for the school's undergraduate admissions program, praised the court for providing a definition of what cannot be a part of decisions based on race, namely the point system.

"We use what we call an advocacy system, which is a system that Harvard uses, and Stanford uses, in which you try to make make your best professional judgment as to how that candidate would fit in your community and the contributions that candidate would make. And I think what the court was saying is when you get more quantitative than that, they get uncomfortable because it smacks of "we're going to use these numbers to make this decision," Mosely said.

Mosely says he believes the court is also saying an applicant could be at a disadvantage in a point system for not having race as a factor in their application packet.

Still, the court's decisions hold that diversity is a compelling state interest and that universities can use race to create a diverse student body.

And that is a disappointment for critics of affirmative action policies who wanted the court to abolish the use of race in all admissions decisions.

Mitch Pearlstein, president of the Center of the American Experiment in Minneapolis, organization has long been opposed to racial preferences in higher education admissions.

"What disappoints me, is the fact that we will still be holding black kids and Hispanic kids and other kids to lower standards coming out of high school. And this is absolutely no way to encourage better academic performance by protected class members. So by having more racial preferences, we will continue to need more racial preferences. I'm afraid that's the dynamic," Pearlstein said.

But students, like Sharifa Charles of the University of St Thomas Black Empowerment Student Alliance, say the court is right to consider race in college admissions.

"It makes me feel as though the people that I attended high school with, I attended North High School, that they have an equal chance and I think that's all it means; that's all that represents to me and I appreciate that. And it's nice to know that universities support that decision; that they want to see more faces like me in their classrooms."

Officials from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the Minnesota Private College Council issued statements praising the court's decision to uphold the use of race as a factor in admissions decisions.

Respond to this story
News Headlines
Related Subjects