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Rallying at the Supreme Court for Affirmative Action

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Rallying at the Supreme Court for Affirmative Action

The Teachers College rally contingent

On April 1, 2003, nearly 40 TC students, staff and faculty members took a bus to Washington, D.C., for a rally before the U.S. Supreme Court to support affirmative action in higher education admissions. The rally attracted tens of thousands of people from across the country, with contingents from many universities, including Columbia (which had six buses), Harvard, Howard, Rutgers, Boston College and the University of Michigan, various civil rights organizations, numerous churches, and several high school groups.

On the day of the rally, the Supreme Court began hearing two cases challenging the admissions process at the University of Michigan. With legal assistance from the Center for Individual Rights (a conservative legal foundation), a group of white students claimed that they were harmed by the university's affirmative action policy, which takes race into consideration as one factor in admissions decisions. Attorneys representing the students argued that any consideration of race in admissions is unconstitutional.

The rally participants strongly disagreed. They noted the U.S. Supreme Court upheld affirmative action and the use of race as one factor among many in admissions decisions in its 1978 Bakke decision. Moreover, they pointed to evidence that affirmative action has secured minorities and women more equitable access to selective colleges and universities.

Janice Robinson and Adam Bad Wound of TC's Office of Diversity and Community, students Nathan Walker and Erica Frankenberg, and Professor Kevin Dougherty organized the trip. "The challenges to affirmative action are attempts to undermine fundamental access to full societal economic and educational participation by minority and disadvantaged people," said Robinson, Special Counsel to the President on Diversity and Community. "That's why it was imperative that TC had a presence at this important civil rights march."

Two months later, on June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court decided the case and upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious admissions policies designed to promote diversity in higher education.

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