Gratz, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75321 (E.D. Mich.)
Grutter, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75928 (E.D. Mich.)



Institutions of higher education have an obligation, first and foremost, to create the best possible educational environment for the young adults whose lives are likely to be significantly changed during their years on campus. Specific objectives may vary from one institution to another, but all efforts must be directed to ensuring an optimal educational environment for these young people who are at a critical stage of development that will complete the foundation for how they will conduct their lives.

One goal embraced by most colleges and universities, and certainly by the University of Michigan, is to prepare young people for active participation in our democratic society, which is an increasingly diverse society. As stated by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 1995, higher education has

both a distinctive responsibility and a precedent setting challenge. Higher education is uniquely positioned, by its mission, values, and dedication to learning, to foster and nourish the habits of heart and mind that Americans need to make diversity work in daily life. We have the opportunity to help our campuses experience engagement across differences as a value and a public good. Our nation's campuses have become a highly visible stage on which the most fundamental questions about difference, equality, and community are being enacted. To this effort, filled with promise and fraught with difficulty, the academy brings indispensable resources: its commitments to the advancement of knowledge and its traditions of dialogue and deliberation across difference as keys to the increase of insight and understanding.

(AAC&U, 1995, p.xvi). Plainly, higher education is obliged both to advance knowledge and to educate those who will become active in the professions and in society. Racial and ethnic differences are relevant to both these goals.

Corporate leaders have reinforced this mission by confirming that the business community is looking to colleges and universities to produce highly valued cognitive and social skills in the educated workforce: ability to work effectively in groups with colleagues of diverse backgrounds, openness to new ideas and perspectives, and empathy with other workers' perspectives (Bikson & Law, 1994). These are qualities that higher education institutions are best equipped to create and nurture, if they are diverse. Indeed, it is development of these qualities of democratic intelligence that educator Lee Knefelkamp (1998) claims is the primary mission of colleges and universities.

That colleges and universities have an obligation to choose carefully the kind of student body that will create the best learning environment for all their students is fundamental to achieving these goals. The vitality, stimulation, and educational potential of a college is, quite obviously, directly related to the makeup of its student body, and, as I will argue on the basis of abundant research findings, diversity is a critically important factor in creating the richly varied educational experience that helps students learn and prepares them for participation in a democracy that is characterized by diversity.

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