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Posted on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:26 p.m.

U-M law professor says U.S. Supreme Court's ruling reaffirms status quo on affirmative action

By Amy Biolchini

The U.S. Supreme Court's Monday ruling on the first affirmative action case the body has considered in nearly a decade reaffirms the status quo for university policies, according to media reports.


Richard Primus

Courtesy U-M

In an interview with the New York Times following the high court's decision on Fisher vs. University of Texas, University of Michigan Law School professor Richard Primus said little will change in policies with regard to race-based admission practices.

The Supreme Court in a 7-1 decision passed the case back down to the Fifth Circuit court for reconsideration, asking for the court to apply strict scrutiny to the school's policy and for the University of Texas to prove why the policy is needed to promote diversity in its campus.

Primus said many predicted that the Supreme Court would use the case to eliminate affirmative action altogether -- which would have overturned the landmark 2003 Gutter vs. Bollinger case at the University of Michigan in which the court upheld using race as a factor in the admission process.

Read the full Q & A with Primus in the New York Times

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 2:39 a.m.

2013 and we are still living in a country that discriminates on race at every level. Institutionalized discrimination is sickening to those who believe in what Martin Luther King said about the content of character, not the color of your skin...................."I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." How quickly we forget.................

Dog Guy

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

University of Michigan Law School professor Richard Primus said little will change in policies and you could not see Mary Sue Coleman's lips move.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:25 p.m.

You've cited only one case the Court mentioned that applies. The other is Gratz v. Bollinger which said a school can't give race merit or points or weight in a decision to admit a student, a case the Court also cited today, along with Bakke. These cases the Fifth must use to determine the TX case.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

Call me a dreamer, but this line of cases calls for a day when AfAction will no longer be necessary. We should set up programs to help families encourage their children to start out right: aspire to excellence, discipline in personal and family life, meaningful goal setting, effective study habits. Remedial work should not be done at the university level. There will unfortunately always be those kids with bad attitudes or complicated home lives who've taken a wrong turn and won't reach the top of their potential, but they can appear in any socio-economic group. Let's find ways to get to the point where such youth need not be associated with ethnicity or race. Those drop-out kids don't have to go to college; no one's forcing them to be academics if they didn't pay attention in school or couldn't excel on exams. Our society needs to bestow honor in entering the trades; we need all kinds of workers in society. But this need not be reflective of divisions along color or ethnic lines! Starting with universal high quality early childhood education programs will make this difference, and the care and enrichment should continue right through all the school years. I look forward to a time when college applicants can be admitted on the basis of their record, merit and achievements, w/out regard to race; when leading scholars and achievers will be of all stripes and colors, without reliance on a hand-out. It will be a healthier society. This is where our emphasis now should lie, in my humble opinion, and should have started decades ago. First Steps in Ann Arbor is such a program. We should examine its strengths for ways to expand it, fund it, and make it available to ALL families. And parents should be learning and taking notes and implementing loving, supportive educational ideas at home that spur curiosity, learning, excellence, and the wish to accomplish good things in one's life regardless of the income, color, country of origin, or station of the parents.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

You are assuming that a minority child is poor and comes from a difficult home and doesn't study and get good grades and doesn't want to go to college. You are exactly why we need Affirmative Action that asks a school to look at a child's excellent work and consider that the child might succeed in that university even though that child may not come from a background where parents can afford fancy programs, educational enrichment programs, or access to a certain level of education in the local schools.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:37 p.m.

Texas already has a policy that allows students in the top 8% to attend whatever state university they want. That already gives them a certain amount of diversity since students at urban predominantly black high schools already have a path to admission. Part of the problem is that other schools may be competing with those Texas schools for the best black students. The Supreme Court is reaffirming its earlier decision but it is saying that it will not be a rubber stamp and that the lower courts need to develop the facts about the affirmative action program before they make a decision. This could come back to the Supreme Court after the facts have been developed in the lower courts.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:49 p.m.

You are correct. My bad. GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:16 p.m.

@edward- that is not the policy that is being challenged in court. That policy is race neutral. The policy that is being challenged are the policy used to fill the positions not filled with the tope 8%.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:05 p.m.

"Texas already has a policy that allows students in the top 8% to attend whatever state university they want." And that is the policy that is being challenged in court. GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Hmmm, sounds like he needs to retake a few law classes himself... Or is he just another liberal activist scholar? Sending it back to the lower court is technically ruling against the University of Texas. The burden is now back on UoT. Would have been nice if they had just ruled against any and all forms of racism, case will be back next year.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:37 p.m.

. . . says someone who did not read the article. It has nothing to do with whether or not it was sent back to the lower court. The issue was the basis for the decision. GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:11 p.m.

Obviously, Primus did not read the decision.....either that or he provided a dummied down interpretation..... Sloppy work for a U of M guy...... The court simply kicked it back to the Appeals court but in so doing stated that schools must prove that there are "no workable race-neutral alternatives". Either this case will end up back at SCOTUS when the Appeals court fixes their screw up or SCOTUS will use the Michigan case scheduled for this Fall to eliminate Affirmative Discrimination once and for all. It's about time......


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 3:26 a.m.

Ed is right, the decision keeps the precedents in place and race can still be used as a factor for admission. If they had wanted to take race out of the equation, they would have ruled so.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:51 p.m.

Ah, yes. Call someone a name, then charge they are thin-skinned when they react. And all of it diverting from the basic fact that the name-caller has no idea what they are talking about. Tactics perfected by the blatherers on Faux Noise. Good Job. GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11 p.m.

Apparently being thin skinned when confronted with the facts is a lib tendency as well?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:53 p.m.

. .. and when the right cannot refute facts and logic, they turn to the ad hominem. GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:47 p.m.

Ed....rrow.... When lefties are incapable of critical thinking they turn to amorphous reasoning and obfuscation.... You didn't disappoint. Reread the OP...then think's not that difficult.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:45 p.m.

Ahhhh, now I understand your confusion. You don't know what the precedents decided. Bakke rejected racial quotas (race cannot be determinative) but permitted race to be used as one of many factors in determining admission. In the Gratz decision the court found that LS&A's admissions policy violated the Bakke precedent in that the 20-point boost given minorities was determinative. In the Grutter case the court found that the Law School had not violated the Bakke precedent. BOTH cases, then, confirmed the Bakke precedent. The UofT case explicitly upheld the Bakke/Gratz/Grutter precedents. SCOTUS remanded the case to the lower courts because it had not applied "strict scrutiny" in its findings. With this the Bakke precedent is set for many years to come. GN&GL

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:03 p.m.

. . . says someone who apparently does not understand that it is the logic applied to reach the decision that is important, logic that will be used in subsequent cases by numerous other lower courts in reaching their decisions. Yes, "liberal spin" always consists of facts and logic, as compared to the fiction and wishful thinking consist conservative so-called "thought". GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:18 p.m.

Ed...rrrow... Reread my post.....your report sounds like typical liberal spin....without knowing the facts or being able to read a sentence....simply suggesting you obfuscated the facts presented would be too kind. They kicked it back...that is it....nothing more...nothing less. the tea leaves.....Affirmative Discrimination is on it's way out.....first quotas (Bakke)....then points (Gratz).......what will be left to hate?...who will the left blame?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:25 p.m.

Yes. UM law profs are famous for not reading before spouting. LOL. No, sir. It is you who did not read (or, in the alternative, failed to understand) the decision. In sending the case back down, the majority clearly reaffirmed the decision in Bakke which itself was affirmed by the Gratz and Grutter decisions. GN&GL


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:58 p.m.

Agreed, although my fist quick read is that it tightened the screws a tad bit: essentially, you have to absolutely, positively, prove that considering race in the way you do it is the least damaging way to achieve diversity. Basically, you must show that nothing else that would be considered less offensive by most, like using socioeconomic indicators, or blanket admission of the top 10% of every high school will work. That was already part of the original decision, but interpreted in a more permissible way, and they now ended that squishy wiggle room that some thought they had.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

JMA2Y: did you even read the opinion? I think it was full of instruction to all lower courts to apply strict scrutiny strictly. No wiggle room, a heavy burden of proof is on the university if it wants to use affirmative action.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:28 p.m.

The Court made no such determination, simply sent it back, ordering the Fifth to use the stricter use of race for admissions as set in past rulings of Gratz/Gutter v. Bollinger, and Bakke when judging the TX case.