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Questions & Answers about the University of Michigan
Law School Admissions Process
at Issue in Grutter v. Bollinger, et al

Law School
Revised October 22, 2002

Q1:  Why did the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) sue the Law School?

Q2:  Is the Law School’s admissions process “colorblind”?

Q3:  Why does the Law School take an applicant’s race into account?

Q4:  But what if a white applicant’s file reveals that he or she might also add to the diversity of perspectives in a class?

Q5:  If the Law School could obtain a diversity of intellectual perspectives within an all-white class, what additional educational benefit would be provided by consciously seeking to have racial diversity as well?

Q6:  Is an applicant required to reveal his or her race?

Q7:  Are most law students members of minority groups?

Q8:  Does the Law School enroll the same number of new African American students every year?

Q9:  Is every minority applicant admitted?

Q10:  If racial diversity is so important, why doesn't the Law School admit a higher percentage of minority applicants each year? For example, since almost 13% of the American population is African American, why are just 6% of this year's 352 entering students African American?

Q11:  How many applications does the Law School receive each year?

Q12:  What information does an application file contain?

Q13:  How does the Law School evaluate that information?

Q14:  How important are undergraduate grades and LSAT scores in that evaluation?

Q15:  Does the Constitution require public law schools to use a “colorblind” admissions process?

Q16:  Didn’t Bakke also say that some uses of race are unconstitutional?

Q17:  Does the Law School use racial quotas?

Q18:  Does the Law School have a “two-track” system of admissions under which minority applicants do not have to compete with majority applicants for admission?

Q19:  Does the Law School maintain separate waiting lists by applicant race?

Q20:  Does the Law School admit unqualified minority students?

Q21:  Barbara Grutter is the named plaintiff, but she represents a class of hundreds of white plaintiffs. Given that only 25 African Americans enrolled in the entering class in the year that Ms. Grutter was not admitted to the Law School, how could there be so many people in the plaintiff class?

Q22:  Could the Law School obtain a racially diverse class with a “colorblind” process, by placing greater emphasis on socioeconomic diversity?

Q23:  What does the Law School say to students who believe they were academically qualified for admission, yet were rejected?

Q24:  What is the relationship between this lawsuit and the lawsuit challenging the University’s undergraduate admissions program?

Q25:  What is the “Center for Individual Rights”?

Q26:  Who are the lawyers representing the University of Michigan?


Q1.   Why did the Center for Individual Rights (CIR) sue the Law School?

A.   In 1997, the Law School decided not to offer admission to a white applicant named Barbara Grutter. CIR then brought a class action asking for money damages and injunctive relief. The class action uses Barbara Grutter as the “named plaintiff.” CIR claims that Barbara Grutter was harmed because the Law School’s admissions process is not "colorblind."

Q2.   Is the Law School’s admissions process “colorblindº?

A.   No. An applicant’s race sometimes makes the difference in whether or not a student is admitted.

Q3.   Why does the Law School take an applicant’s race into account?

A.   Because having a racially diverse class enables the Law School to do a better job of preparing students to be effective lawyers. Students are exposed to classmates who have had different life experiences, and their prior assumptions are challenged. Whenever an applicant’s file reveals that he or she might add to the diversity of perspectives that are voiced in class, that helps the applicant’s chances of admission.

Q4.   But what if a white applicant’s file reveals that he or she might also add to the diversity of perspectives in a class?

A.   That applicant’s chances of admission are improved as well.

Q5.   If the Law School could obtain a diversity of intellectual perspectives within an all-white class, what additional educational benefit would be provided by consciously seeking to have racial diversity as well?

A.   Race continues to be a uniquely important factor in American life. When individuals meet on the street, when they decide where to live, when they decide whom to befriend, when they decide whom to work with, race matters. A well-trained lawyer should understand how the experience of race can influence people’s perceptions of our nation’s legal, political, and economic systems.

Q6.   Is an applicant required to reveal his or her race?

A.   No.

Q7.   Are most law students members of minority groups?

A.   The most recent entering class (2002) has 352. The following students reported being members of racial or ethnic minority groups:

African American 21 ( 6%)
Asian American 30 ( 9%)
Latino 24 ( 7%)
Native American   8 ( 2%)

Total: 83 (24%)

In addition, we have 6 (2%) international students, and 36 (10%) students who chose not to self-identify their ethnicity.

The prior year's entering class (2001) had 361 students. The following students reported being members of racial or ethnic minority groups:

African American 26 (7%)
Asian American 41 (11%)
Latino 16 ( 4%)
Native American   3 ( 1%)

Total: 86 (24%)

Q8.   Does the Law School enroll the same number of new African American students every year?

A.   No. Over the past nine years, the number of African Americans in the entering class ranged from 21 to 37.

Q9.   Is every minority applicant admitted?

A.   No.
The average offer rate for the last 10 years has been:

29% for Caucasian applicants,
26% for African American applicants,
35% for Native American applicants,
25% for Latino applicants,
22% for Asian American applicants.

Q10.   If racial diversity is so important, why doesn't the Law School admit a higher percentage of minority applicants each year? For example, since almost 13% of the American population is African American, why are just 6% of this year's 352 entering students African American?

A.   Racial diversity of the student body is only one of many considerations that the Law School takes into account when it makes admissions decisions. The choice among applicants requires the Law School to consider all of the qualities that are reflected in each applicant's file.

Q11.   How many applications does the Law School receive each year?

A.   This year the Law School received more than 5,200 applications for 350 seats.

Q12.   What information does an application file contain?

A.   Each applicant must provide an academic transcript of completed undergraduate and graduate coursework.

Each applicant must take the Law School Admissions Test (“LSAT”) and report the results from each time the test was taken.

Each applicant must complete a questionnaire that elicits information about such matters as:

  • academic honors
  • extracurricular activities
  • community service
  • employment during and after college
  • special areas of interest, academic pursuits, and hobbies
  • relatives who attended the University of Michigan Law School
  • race (optional)

Each applicant must submit a personal statement.

Each applicant must submit at least one letter of recommendation.

In addition, each applicant has the option of adding other information to his or her file. Such information typically includes additional letters of recommendation and supplemental essays.

A.   An admissions file reveals a great deal about an individual applicant. The transcript, the questionnaire, the essays, and the recommendations allow the Admissions Director to assess an applicant’s appetite for rigorous academic work, ability to excel at such work, commitment to serving others, qualities of leadership and judgment, and ethical values. They permit the Admissions Director to form a judgment about whether the applicant can complete the curriculum without serious academic difficulties, and about what contributions the applicant is likely to make to the Law School as a student and to the society and the profession as a practicing attorney.

The Law School seeks to enroll a group of students who, individually and collectively, are among the most capable students applying to American law schools in a given year. As individuals we expect our admittees not only to have substantial promise for success in law school but also to have a strong likelihood of succeeding in the practice of law and contributing in diverse ways to the well-being of others. The Admissions Director must evaluate each applicant’s file and make admissions decisions in light of that overall purpose.

Q14.   How important are undergraduate grades and LSAT scores in that evaluation?

A.   No applicant is admitted to the Law School unless the Admissions Office is confident that he or she will be able to succeed academically. Moreover, applicants with higher LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs are, in general, more likely to be admitted than those with lower scores and grades, because those factors indicate a greater likelihood of superior academic performance in law school. Even as predictors of academic performance, however, those numbers must be considered in conjunction with such information as the rigor of the undergraduate course of study, the quality of the academic institution attended, the progress observed in the applicant’s undergraduate academic performance, recommendations, and essays. As indicated above, the Law School is interested in more than just the promise of academic excellence; it cares as well about an applicant’s potential to make valuable contributions to the law school experience, both inside and outside of the classroom, and to the society and the profession after graduation.

Q15.   Does the Constitution require public law schools to use a “colorblind” admissions process?

A.   No. In 1978, in the case of Bakke v. the University of California at Davis, the Supreme Court reversed a decision of the California Supreme Court that had insisted on colorblindness in admissions. A five-justice majority of the Court joined together to say that a properly devised admissions program may lawfully consider race and ethnic origin.

Q16.   Didn’t Bakke also say that some uses of race are unconstitutional?

A.   Yes, it did. A majority of the Court also held that, to be permissible, an admissions process may not rely on racial quotas, may not use a two-track system with separate processes for applicant evaluation, and may not place so much emphasis on race that minority applicants are admitted even though they are not deemed capable of doing good work in their courses.

Q17.   Does the Law School use racial quotas?

A.   No. As noted above, the number of minority students varies significantly from year to year.

A.   No. Each applicant must compete with every other applicant, and in any given case an applicant’s contribution to racial diversity may or may not make the difference in who is admitted. The ultimate decision depends on the entire application file.

Q19.   Does the Law School maintain separate waiting lists by applicant race?

A.   No.

Q20.   Does the Law School admit unqualified minority students?

A.   No. The Law School admits only students who are expected to succeed. Moreover, history has vindicated the Law School’s admissions judgments. Law School graduates of all races have distinguished themselves as partners in major law firms, holders of federal and state elective office, judges and justices, and senior business executives.

Q21.   Barbara Grutter is the named plaintiff, but she represents a class of hundreds of white plaintiffs. Given that only 25 African Americans enrolled in the entering class in the year that Ms. Grutter was not admitted to the Law School, how could there be so many people in the plaintiff class?

A.   CIR does not claim that everyone in the plaintiff class would have been admitted to the Law School. However, it claims that each person in the plaintiff class is entitled to unspecified damages solely because a “colorblind” process was not used in the admissions process, regardless of whether an individual student would have been admitted under such a process.

Q22.   Could the Law School obtain a racially diverse class with a “colorblind” process, by placing greater emphasis on socioeconomic diversity?

A.   No. Racial diversity and socioeconomic diversity are not the same thing. Other highly selective law schools have found that placing greater weight on socioeconomic factors in admission is not an adequate method of obtaining meaningful levels of racial integration.

Q23.   What does the Law School say to students who believe they were academically qualified for admission, yet were rejected?

A.   Each year, the Law School receives many more applications from well-qualified students than can be admitted. In the end, we reject thousands of talented applicants. The limited size of the entering class requires that the Law School use good judgment in order to assemble a student body it believes will provide the best possible environment for teaching law.

Q24.   What is the relationship between this lawsuit and the lawsuit challenging the University’s undergraduate admissions program?

A:   CIR filed a nearly identical complaint against the University of Michigan on behalf of two white applicants who were denied admission to the undergraduate program of the College of Literature, Science & the Arts. The undergraduate lawsuit was assigned to Judge Patrick J. Duggan in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The Law School lawsuit was assigned to Judge Bernard A. Friedman in the same court.

Q25.   What is the “Center for Individual Rights”?

A.   The Center for Individual Rights (“CIR”), a Washington, D.C., law firm, is waging a campaign of lawsuits across the country challenging the use of race in admissions.

Q26.   Who are the lawyers representing the University of Michigan?

A.   The University is represented by an experienced team of litigators from Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering of Washington, D.C.; Latham & Watkins, also of Washington, D.C.; and Butzel Long of Detroit.

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