Powell’s Description

The record does not describe a system with a quota like the one struck down in Bakke, which “insulated” all nonminority candidates from competition from certain seats. . . . The plan here, in contrast, lets all applicants compete for all places and values an applicant’s offering for any place not only on grounds of race, but on grades, test scores, strength of high school, quality of course of study, residence, alumni relationships, leadership, personal character, socioeconomic disadvantage, athletic ability, and quality of a personal essay. A nonminority applicant who scores highly in these other cate- gories can readily garner a selection index exceeding that of a minority applicant who gets the 20-point bonus.

Subject to one qualification to be taken up below, this scheme of consid- ering, through the selection index system, all of the characteristics that the college thinks relevant to student diversity for every one of the student places to be filled fits Justice Powell’s description of a constitutionally acceptable program: one that considers “all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant” and places each element “on the same footing for consideration, although not necessarily according them the same weight.” In the Court’s own words, “each characteristic of a particular applicant [is] considered in assessing the applicant’s entire application.” An unsuccessful nonminority applicant cannot complain that he was rejected “simply because he was not the right color“; an applicant who is rejected because “his combined qualifications . . . did not outweigh those of the other applicant” has been given an opportunity to compete with all other applicants.

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The one qualification to this description of the admissions process is that membership in an underrepresented minority is given a weight of 20 points on the 150-point scale. On the face of things, however, this assignment of specific points does not set race apart from all other weighted con- siderations. Nonminority students may receive 20 points for athletic ability, socioeconomic disadvantage, attendance at a socioeconomically disadvan- taged or predominantly minority high school, or at the Provost’s discretion; they may also receive 10 points for being residents of Michigan, 6 for residence in an underrepresented Michigan county, 5 for leadership and service, and so on.


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