Affirmative Action Lives: All You Need to Know About Gratz & Grutter

As you probably know by now, today the U.S. Supreme Court issued the two opinions widely expected to determine the fate of affirmative action. Affirmative action proponents, after months of anxiety, were able to collectively breathe major sighs of relief with the issuance of the Court’s opinions. While the Court was split in the two opinions, striking down the University of Michigan’s undergraduate preferential admissions program, while preserving the law school’s problem, affirmative action still lives, as the Court affirms that race can be one of multiple factors (just not the only factor) a university considers when determining which students to offer admission.

Many commentators have already digested the opinions, which due to the number of concurrences and dissents, come in at a whopping 95 (Grutter) and 68 (Gratz) pages each. Given my impending departure for the NELA Annual Convention, and the wealth of existing commentary, here is a compilation of what is currently available on the web regarding these opinions:

Official Supreme Court opinion links

Grutter v. Bollinger, et al.

Gratz v. Bollinger, et al.

Cornell Legal Information Institute (HTML & PDF format, with links to all concurrences and dissents)

Grutter v. Bollinger, et al.

Gratz v. Bollinger, et al.

News Articles

Supreme Court Splits on Diversity Efforts at University of Michigan

Linda Greenhouse, New York Times

In Split Decision, Court Backs Affirmative Action

Charles Lane, Washington Post

Justices Pen Widely Varied Mich. Opinions

Darlene Superville (AP), Washington Post

Conservatives Call Affirmative Action Rulings ‘Disgusting’ and ‘Disappointing’

Robert B. Bluey, Cybercast News Service

Some Big Businesses Applaud High Court Decision on Affirmative Action

John Porretto (AP), Miami Herald

Both Sides Claim Victory in Supreme Court Ruling

David Runk (AP), Detroit News

Court Splits Over U-M Admissions

Sarah Kellogg, Ann Arbor News

Michigan Students Weigh In On Supreme Court Ruling

Shawn Windsor, Detroit Free Press

Listen Here (Real Player required)

Audio Report by NPR’s Nina Totenberg

Affirmative Action Timeline

Associated Press, Detroit News


Upholding the Status Quo

Debra Rosenberg, Newsweek

Anticlimactic Action: Does the Court give us the law we want?

Jeff Taylor, Reason Online

Press Releases/Statements

President Applauds Supreme Court for Recognizing Value of Diversity

Statement by the President,

Comments from University Leaders

University of Michigan News

Statement on Court Decision

Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm

Civil Rights Coalition Calls Supreme Court Michigan Decision Victory for America

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR)

While this case involving university and law school admission will not have a direct impact on the workplace, it nonetheless is of great significance to workplace diversity. University and law school graduates hold many positions of key positions of responsibility in the workplace. As the majority opinion in Grutter acknowledged,

universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of our Nation’s leaders….In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. All members of our heterogeneous society must have confidence in the openness and integrity of the educational institutions that provide this training….Access to legal education (and thus the legal profession) must be inclusive of talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity, so that all members of our heterogeneous society may participate in the educational institutions that provide the training and education necessary to succeed in America.

Today’s opinion ensures that this future leadership pool will continue to as diverse as possible. Moreover, the opinions reflect that for now, anyway, public and private affirmative action programs may continue, whether voluntary or required by law. An opinion which completely eviscerated affirmative action would have had a devastating effect on all diversity programs, even though those programs were not the subject of today’s opinion. Whether voluntary or mandatory, these programs are temporarily safe–although a Supreme Court vacancy could change things considerably, given the fractious nature of the opinions and the obvious division of the Court. So while today, we can breathe a little easier, we cannot completely abandon our vigilance.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.