Local News

Attorney: Supreme Court Ruling Will Not Change N.C. Policies

Posted June 23, 2003

— A U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows race as a factor in university admission decisions is consistent with policy already in place in the University of North Carolina system, a lawyer said Monday.

"It seems to me that the practices in use at UNC are consistent with the opinion," said Leslie Winner, vice president and general counsel of the University of North Carolina system.

"Not all of our campuses use race in admissions, but those campuses that do consider race consider it with a broad range of diversity factors," Winner said.

None of the 16-campuses in the UNC system uses the point system that the Supreme Court declared invalid in the Michigan undergraduate case, she said.

Admissions policies at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC Wilmington, North Carolina State and Appalachian State consider race, but "they all do it as part of a broader commitment to diversity and none of them use a point system," she said in a telephone interview.

Justices said in a divided decision that universities can give minority applicants an edge in admissions, but that race can't be the only factor.

The court preserved the rules outlined a generation ago in a landmark ruling that struck down quotas but allowed subtler forms of affirmative action. Monday's rulings mean that race-conscious policies in place in institutions as diverse as military academies and women's studies courses will probably remain in force.

Writing for the majority in the 5-4 ruling upholding an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan's law school, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said the value of diverse classrooms extends far beyond the campus.

"Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized," O'Connor wrote.

At the same time, the high court voted 6-3 to strike down a separate point system used by the University of Michigan's undergraduate school.

The ruling affects tax-supported schools, and by extension private schools and other institutions, that have looked for ways to boost minority enrollment without violating the Constitution's guarantee against discrimination.

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