President Bush Discusses Michigan Affirmative Action Case

President George W. Bush said the following in The Roosevelt Room in January, 2003:

Good afternoon. The Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a case about admission policies and student diversity in public universities. I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed. At their core, the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes perspective students, based solely on their race.

So, tomorrow my administration will file a brief with the court arguing that the University of Michigan's admissions policies, which award students a significant number of extra points based solely on their race, and establishes numerical targets for incoming minority students, are unconstitutional. Our Constitution makes it clear that people of all races must be treated equally under the law.

Yet we know that our society has not fully achieved that ideal. Racial prejudice is a reality in America. It hurts many of our citizens. As a nation, as a government, as individuals, we must be vigilant in responding to prejudice wherever we find it. Yet, as we work to address the wrong of racial prejudice, we must not use means that create another wrong, and thus perpetuate our divisions. America is a diverse country, racially, economically, and ethnically. And our institutions of higher education should reflect our diversity.

A college education should teach respect and understanding and goodwill. And these values are strengthened when students live and learn with people from many backgrounds. Yet quota systems that use race to include or exclude people from higher education and the opportunities it offers are divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution. In the programs under review by the Supreme Court, the University of Michigan has established an admissions process based on race.

At the undergraduate level, African American students and some Hispanic students and Native American students receive 20 points out of a maximum of 150, not because of any academic achievement or life experience, but solely because they are African American, Hispanic or Native American. To put this in perspective, a perfect SAT score is worth only 12 points in the Michigan system. Students who accumulate 100 points are generally admitted, so those 20 points awarded solely based on race are often the decisive factor.

At the law school, some minority students are admitted to meet percentage targets while other applicants with higher grades and better scores are passed over. This means that students are being selected or rejected based primarily on the color of their skin. The motivation for such an admissions policy may be very good, but its result is discrimination and that discrimination is wrong. Some states are using innovative ways to diversify their student bodies. Recent history has proven that diversity can be achieved without using quotas.

Systems in California and Florida and Texas have proven that by guaranteeing admissions to the top students from high schools throughout the state, including low income neighborhoods, colleges can attain broad racial diversity. In these states, race-neutral admissions policies have resulted in levels of minority attendance for incoming students that are close to, and in some instances slightly surpass, those under the old race-based approach. We should not be satisfied with the current numbers of minorities on Americans college campuses.

Much progress has been made; much more is needed. University officials have the responsibility and the obligation to make a serious, effective effort to reach out to students from all walks of life, without falling back on unconstitutional quotas. Schools should seek diversity by considering a broad range of factors in admissions, including a student's potential and life experiences. Our government must work to make college more affordable for students who come from economically disadvantaged homes.

And because we're committed to racial justice, we must make sure that America's public schools offer a quality education to every child from every background, which is the central purpose of the education reforms I signed last year. America's long experience with the segregation we have put behind us and the racial discrimination we still struggle to overcome requires a special effort to make real the promise of equal opportunity for all. My administration will continue to actively promote diversity and opportunity in every way that the law permits.

Thank you very much.

kaytay says the following:
Of all people to come out and say it, this man was the last I expected to confront the issue of U of M's admissions policy. But good for him. Someone had to say something in a public fashion instead of allowing the blind support of inequality in the name of equality to continue.

And he didn't say the word "evil" even once.

Thank you very much.

2003.1.28 tdent says

  1. Quota systems have been illegal for decades. U-M does not have a quota system. Good for Bush for confusing something that is not a quota with something that is?
  2. Legacy admissions 'perpetuate our divisions' since they favour those (overwhelmingly white) whose parents got in. Good for Bush for faulting race-based action but ignoring legacies?
  3. GPA is 80 points in Michigan's system. Total possible score from academic factors 110 points. Total possible from racial factors 20 points. Good for Bush for deliberately omitting to mention GPA?
  4. Texas system relies on high schools being effectively segregated, and since different schools have very different standards, good applicants from better schools who happen not to be in top 10% may get excluded in favour of worse applicants who make the top 10% of worse schools. If Texas schools were racially integrated, the scheme would not work. Good for Bush for pushing a scheme that's based on segregated high schools? All in all, a masterly piece of selective factual omission. Did you even look at the U-M points system in its entirety?
    actually, one more point
  5. the 20 points that Bush said were 'solely' for race can in fact be awarded for socioeconomic disadvantage, to applicants educated at a school predominantly attended by an underrepresented minority, to scholarship athletes or at the Provost's discretion. It's the same 20 points, but they get awarded to the poor of whatever race and to athetes as well as to minorities. Another deceptive misrepresentation.
kaytay says
  1. I don't know so much about quotas being official, but the minority population at U of M remains at a constant percentage year to year - how would one explain that without a quota system? I am sure an explanation exists, but a quota system is a possibilty.
  2. The issue was affirmative action, not legacy. I understnad how it fits in with the argument, but then again the children of U of M alumni are awarded 4 points at most, not 20.
  3. GPA is worth up to 80 points. Take an above-average white kid with an A average and an average minority with a B average - they are now "equal," both with 80 points.
  4. I know nothing about schools in Texas, although I am sure you have a point. And yes, I know a lot about the U of M admissions policy, I would not have opened my mouth if I didn't. Node what you know. For those who are interested, here's a breakdown of the point values awarded:

    The admission criteria at U of M are ambiguous. The total is supposedly 150 points, with a minimum of 100 points needed to be considered for acceptance.

    Up to 80 : is based on one's high school GPA. 80 points for a 4.0 (A) average, 60 points for a 3.0, 40 points for a 2.0, and so on.

    20 : the number of points an applicant receives for being African-American, Hispanic, or Native American (ethnicities that do not receive the 20 points: Asian, Caucasion, and Arab). Being otherwise "disadvantaged" is also taken into account.

    Up to 16 points : awarded based on where the student lives. In the words of U of M, these points go to students "coming from a geographic area that is less well represented on our campus."

    Up to 12 : the total amount of points that can be earned for a perfect standardized test score (e.g., 1600 on the SAT or 36 on the ACT).

    Up to 10 : awarded for attending a competitive high school.

    up to 8 : the maximum number of points that can be earned for taking a difficult high school curriculum.

    5 : the number of points awarded to "men in nursing."

    Up to 5 : points an applicant can earn for personal achievement or leadership on a national level.

    4 : points an applicant receives for being a son or daughter of an alumnus.

    3 : points that can be earned for an outstanding personal essay.

    Total possible points for a Hispanic/African-American/Native American who lived a disadvantaged life, who has a 4.0 GPA, scored 1600 on the SAT, is the son of a U of M grad from a competitive high school in an under-represented area of the world where he took a difficult course load, who wrote a perfect essay and has demonstrated "personal acheivement" and is a male going into nursing: 163.

    But then some of those criteria are somewhat mutually exclusive, so I bet that total is nearly impossible to obtain.

  5. That's very true.