The accusations of the plaintiffs in Gratz v. Bollinger, an upcoming trial concerning affirmative action problems at the University of Michigan, are unfair.
In October 1997, the Center for Individual Rights filed a lawsuit against the U-M College of Literature, Science and Arts, U-M President Lee Bollinger and former President James Duderstadt.
The plaintiffs, Jennifer Gratz, who applied to the university in 1995, and Patrick Hamacher, who applied in 1996, were both denied admission. The lawsuit states that the two were treated less favorably in considering the applications for admission to the LSA college because they are white. They claim that U-Ms affirmative action policy caused them to be rejected in favor of minorities with lower grade-point averages and ACT scores.
In December of 1997, CIR filed a second lawsuit against U-Ms Law School on behalf of white applicant Barbara Grutter, who claims that in 1995 she was also unfairly evaluated in the admissions process. Many believe both cases will likely find their way to the Supreme Court.
Gratz and Hamachers lawsuit is unwarranted. Gratz and Hamachers GPAs and test scores are not competitive enough to warrant their claim that their rejection was unfair. Gratz had a GPA of 3.7 and an ACT score of 25, and Hamacher had a GPA of just under 3.4 and an ACT score of 28. U-M is a prestigious university with high standards of admission.
U-M also considers more than just grades and test scores when examining a prospective students application. High school activities, for example, can play a role in admission and applicants are required to write an essay, which is also taken into consideration during the admissions process.
GPAs and test scores also may not accurately reflect a students success at a university. There is not one foolproof predictor of future academic success.
There is no way to determine whether the rejection of Gratz and Hamacher had anything to do with race, considering that in the same year that Gratz applied 1,300 white students were accepted with lower GPAs and standardized test scores than she had.
Affirmative action does have some flaws. But the purpose of affirmative action policies as well as their overall effect have a positive impact on diversity on college campuses.
Since U-M started the Michigan Mandate, a policy to diversify U-Ms campus through minority recruitment and retention, minority enrollment increased from 12.7 percent in 1986 to 25.4 percent in 1996. Affirmative action helped diversify U-M and is still necessary, because three-fourths of the campus is still white.
Affirmative action also benefits students who are not minorities. Diversity increases cultural awareness and prepares students for a world filled with many different ethnicities. Affirmative action encourages a mixture of people of different financial and cultural backgrounds to apply to universities.
Affirmative action is a necessary and effective way to increase diversity at U-M, and hopefully, Gratz v. Bollinger will not overturn this policy.