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TC Rallies for Affirmative Action at the U.S. Supreme Court

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In the photo (from left to right): Lydia Gardner, Rachel Leventhal, Helmsy Guerrier, Adam Bad Wound, Erica Smith, Kevin Dougherty, Michael Akake, Amy Stuart Wells, Mike Cassleman, James Alford, Nathan Walker, Janice Robinson, Joseph Gilchrist, Urbano Garza, Erica Frankenberg and Kathleen O’Connell.

In the photo (from left to right): Lydia Gardner, Rachel Leventhal, Helmsy Guerrier, Adam Bad Wound, Erica Smith, Kevin Dougherty, Michael Akake, Amy Stuart Wells, Mike Cassleman, James Alford, Nathan Walker, Janice Robinson, Joseph Gilchrist, Urbano Garza, Erica Frankenberg and Kathleen O’Connell.

On April 1, 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 defend affirmative action in college admissions. Janice Robinson and Adam Bad Wound of the TC Office of Diversity and Community, TC students Nathan Walker and Erica Frankenberg, and Professor Kevin Dougherty organized the trip.

The rally attracted tens of thousands of people from across the country, with contingents from many colleges, including Columbia University, which had six buses, the University of Michigan, Howard University, Harvard University, Rutgers University, and Boston College, 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. The challenges come from white students who were denied admission to the undergraduate school and the law school at the university. With legal assistance from the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative legal foundation, the students claim 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 argue that any consideration of race in admissions is unconstitutional. The rally participants strongly disagreed. They noted the U.S. Supreme Court upheld that affirmative action and the use of race as one factor, among many, in admissions decisions in its 1978 Bakke decision. Moreover, they point to the evidence that affirmative action has secured minorities and women more equal access to selective colleges and universities. Also, as the many briefs from big corporations and military officials point out, affirmative action has become a key means for business and government to attract a more representative leadership as the workforce has become more diverse.

The defenders of affirmative action fear that if the Supreme Court were to hold against the University of Michigan's admissions programs, this repudiation of the Bakke decision would sweep away not only affirmative action in college admissions but also other efforts to address racial inequality, such as high school-to-college bridge programs, targeted to minority youth.

Robinson, who is Special Counsel to the President on Diversity and Community, said, "The challenges to affirmative action are attempts to undermine fundamental access to full societal economic and educational participation by minority and disadvantaged people. That's why it was imperative that TC had a presence at this important civil rights march."

For more information, on the significance of the University of Michigan cases, go to the Web site of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University: www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu.

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