Governor Granholm Submits Brief Supporting University of Michigan's Educational Autonomy

Contact: Elizabeth Boyd 517-335-6397

February 17, 2003

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has filed an Amicus Curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, supporting the University of Michigan’s admissions policies in two cases scheduled for oral argument April 1.

The filing was submitted on behalf of the State of Michigan late Friday. It defends admissions practices used by the University of Michigan Law School and the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts. The admissions practices consider race and ethnic origin as one of a broad array of factors in making admissions decisions.

“The University of Michigan is right to strive for a diverse student body,” Granholm said today. “Such diversity clearly helps to fulfill the University’s educational mission by helping to ensure its students are exposed to a diverse community of citizens, opinions and thinking.

“The University’s decision to achieve a diverse student body falls within the doctrines of academic freedom and institutional autonomy guaranteed to the University by the U.S. Constitution and by Michigan’s own Constitution,” Granholm added.

The cases, Barbara Grutter v. Lee Bollinger, et al, and Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher v. Lee Bollinger, et al, both involve claims that the University’s admissions policies violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“I am proud to support the University and believe the Supreme Court justices will agree that the University’s admissions policies do not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment,” Granholm said.

Granholm noted in her brief that since 1978, universities have relied on University of California v. Bakke, to formulate admissions policies. In Bakke, the court concluded that a properly devised university admissions program involving the competitive consideration of race ethnic origin would not violate the 14th Amendment. In his Bakke opinion, Justice Powell relied on the court’s long-honored doctrine of “academic freedom” grounded in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Granholm goes further to note that in addition to the guarantee of academic freedom provided in the First Amendment, Michigan’s Constitution, also jealously guards against any interference with educational autonomy. In fact, Granholm’s brief notes that the guarantee of “educational autonomy” has been specially conferred on Michigan’s universities under Article 8, Section 5, and should be afforded due deference by the Supreme Court.

“Michigan’s universities are guaranteed the right to govern themselves by law,” Granholm said.

The Governor argues that if the federal judiciary overrides the state’s control of its educational system, it would encroach upon a constitutionally justifiable policy choice by the state, which is guaranteed by both the U.S. and Michigan constitutions.

The filing marks the second time that Granholm has filed an Amicus brief supporting the University in the lawsuits. As Attorney General she filed in support of the University when the cases were before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.