Read the following excerpt from the Supreme Court's opinion in Bakke. As you read, complete the following steps:
Underline the three problems the Supreme Court of the United States identifies with UC's medical school admissions preferences.
Circle the two standards the Court says preferences must meet to be constitutional.
Draw a star next to each of the four purposes the regents of
UC-Davis say their preference system serves. Put a plus "+" sign next to
each of those purposes that you think is justifiable and a minus "-"
sign next to each of the purposes that you do not think is justifiable.
Summarize the Court's decision in one sentence.
(Writing for a divided Court, Justice Powell rendered a judgment.
Four justices agreed with part of it and another four justices agreed
with another part of his opinion. The lack of consensus among the
justices has kept the Bakke case from having the impact on American law
that it might have had otherwise. The issue is still a controversial
Justice Powell delivered the opinion of the Court.
. . . The special admissions program is undeniably a classification based on race and ethnic background.
guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment extend to all persons. Its
language is explicit: "No State shall . . . deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." . . . The guarantee
of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual
and something else when applied to a person of another color. If both
are not accorded the same protection, then it is not equal.
urges us to adopt . . . more restrictive view of the Equal Protection
Clause and hold that discrimination against members of the white
"majority" cannot be suspect if its purpose can be characterized as
. . . [T]here are serious problems of justice
connected with the idea of preference. . . . First, it may not always be
clear that a so-called preference is in fact benign. Courts may be
asked to validate burdens imposed upon individual members of a
particular group in order to advance the group's general interest. . . .
Nothing in the Constitution supports the notion that individuals may be
asked to suffer otherwise impermissible burdens in order to enhance the
societal standing of their ethnic groups. Second, preferential programs
may only reinforce common stereotypes holding that certain groups are
unable to achieve success without special protection based on a factor
having no relationship to individual worth. . . . Third, there is a
measure of inequity in forcing innocent persons in respondent's position
to bear the burdens of redressing grievances not of their making.
have held that in "order to justify the use of a suspect classification
[i.e. in order to discriminate on the basis of race], a State must show
that its purpose . . . is both constitutionally permissible and
substantial, and that its use of the classification is 'necessary . . .
to the accomplishment' of its purpose. . . . The special admissions
program purports to serve the purposes of: (i) "reducing the historic
deficit of traditionally disfavored minorities in medical schools and in
the medical profession," . . . (ii) countering the effects of societal
discrimination; (iii) increasing the number of physicians who will
practice in communities currently underserved; and (iv) obtaining the
educational benefits that flow from an ethnically diverse student body.
It is necessary to decide which, if any, of these purposes is
substantial enough to support the use of a suspect classification.
If petitioner's purpose is to assure within its student body some
specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or
ethnic origin, such a preferential purpose must be rejected not as
insubstantial but as facially invalid. Preferring members of any one
group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination
for its own sake. This the Constitution forbids.
identifies, as another purpose of its program, improving the delivery
of health-care services to communities currently underserved. It may be
assumed that in some situations a State's interest in facilitating the
health care of its citizens is sufficiently compelling to support the
use of a suspect classification. But there is virtually no evidence in
the record indicating that petitioner's special admissions program is
either needed or geared to promote that goal.
goal asserted by petitioner is the attainment of a diverse student body.
This clearly is a constitutionally permissible goal for an institution
of higher education. . . . The freedom of a university to make its own
judgments as to education includes the selection of its student body. . .
It may be assumed that the reservation of a specified
number of seats in each class for individuals from the preferred ethnic
groups would contribute to the attainment of considerable ethnic
diversity in the student body. But petitioner's argument that this is
the only effective means of serving the interest of diversity is
seriously flawed. . . . The diversity that furthers a compelling state
interest encompasses a far broader array of qualifications and
characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though
important element. Petitioner's special admissions program, focused
solely on ethnic diversity, would hinder rather than further attainment
of genuine diversity.
. . . [R]ace or ethnic background may
be deemed a "plus" in a particular applicant's file, yet it does not
insulate the individual from comparison with all other candidates for
the available seats. The file of a particular black applicant may be
examined for his potential contribution to diversity without the factor
of race being decisive when compared, for example, with that of an
applicant identified as an Italian-American if the latter is thought to
exhibit qualities more likely to promote beneficial educational
pluralism. Such qualities could include exceptional personal talents,
unique work or service experience, leadership potential, maturity,
demonstrated compassion, a history of overcoming disadvantage, ability
to communicate with the poor, or other qualifications deemed important.
summary, it is evident that the Davis special admissions program
involves the use of an explicit racial classification never before
countenanced by this Court. It tells applicants who are not Negro,
Asian, or Chicano that they are totally excluded from a specific
percentage of the seats in an entering class. No matter how strong their
qualifications, quantitative and extracurricular, including their own
potential for contribution to educational diversity, they are never
afforded the chance to compete with applicants from the preferred groups
for the special admissions seats. At the same time, the preferred
applicants have the opportunity to compete for every seat in the class.
respect to respondent's entitlement to an injunction directing his
admission to the Medical School, petitioner has conceded that it could
not carry its burden of proving that, but for the existence of its
unlawful special admissions program, respondent still would not have
been admitted. Hence, respondent is entitled to the injunction, and that
portion of the judgment must be affirmed.