Resource: Gratz v. Bollinger


June 23, 2003

The University of Michigan’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions (OUA) considers a number of factors in its evaluative process, such as high school grades, standardized test scores, curriculum strength, alumni relationships, geography, and leadership. The OUA also considers race and admits virtually every qualified applicant from certain groups determined to be “underrepresented minorities.” Beginning in 1998, the OUA used a point system in which students were awarded an additional 20 points for being a member of an underrepresented minority, and beginning in 1999, the University established an Admissions Review Committee to provide an additional level of consideration. In 1995, Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher both applied for admission to the University of Michigan’ College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) as residents of the state of Michigan. Both are of Caucasian descent. Both were denied admission and told that, although they were qualified, they were not competitive enough applicants to be admitted on first review. In October 1997, Gratz and Hamacher filed a class action suit against the University, the LSA, Lee Bollinger, and James Duderstadt. They argued that the admission procedure discriminated against certain racial and ethnic groups in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The district court held that the respondents had shown that a racially and ethnically diverse student body produced significant academic benefits but that the admission policies of 1995-1998 were problematic because they amounted to “holding seats” for certain minority groups. Therefore, the court granted summary judgment for the petitioners with respect to the admissions policies for 1995-1998 and for the respondents with respect to the policy that began in 1999. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit heard this case the same day as Grutter v. Bollinger, a similar case, and upheld the University’s admission policies in that case. The petitioners in this case then asked the Court to grant certiorari, despite the lack of opinion from the lower court, to resolve the issue.

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Institution: The Oyez Project

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Gratz v. Bollinger