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Landmark Decision

Landmark DecisionOn Monday, the Supreme Court released two critical decisions on affirmative action which supported, but limited, the use of race in admissions decisions. Washington, D.C.

Boston [06.23.03] Ruling in two cases considered to be the most significant tests of affirmative action in a generation, the Supreme Court supported the use of race in admissions decisions in two opinions released on Monday morning. In interviews with the national media shortly after the decisions were made public, University President Lawrence S. Bacow applauded the court's rulings.

"I am pleased that the Court has now created a roadmap that will enable Tufts University and other schools across the country to continue to enroll students who enrich the educational environment for all students on campus," Bacow said. "Tufts values diversity--in every dimension--as a critical element in adequately preparing students for a rapidly changing world."

In two split decisions on separate cases filed against the University of Michigan, the Supreme Court justices clarified the role of affirmative action practices.

"The high court struck down a point system used by the University of Michigan to give minority preference, but did not go as far as opponents of affirmative action had wanted," reported the Associated Press. "The court approved a separate program used at the University of Michigan law school that gives race less prominence in the admissions decision-making process."

In the majority opinion on the law school case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote, "[The Constitution] does not prohibit the law school's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body."

The decision supports the efforts Tufts and other universities have made to enroll a diverse student population.

``The court made a road map for Tufts and other schools across the country to continue to enroll students who will improve the quality of education for everyone in the university,'' David Cuttino, dean of undergraduate admissions, told The Boston Herald.

The decisions are expected to have an impact far beyond the higher education area, as businesses and government agencies review their own policies.

"Everybody would welcome the day in which race had no meaning in America, but we're not there yet," Bacow told The New York Times. "We've made progress over the years and will continue to do so. But I can't say whether that will take 10 years, 15 or 50."

Earlier this year, Tufts joined other private and public colleges, military and corporate leaders by supporting an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Court. This brief emphasized the University's firm belief in the importance of diversity in ensuring the excellence and effectiveness of higher education in a complex, interdependent world.

"I am pleased that today's Supreme Court decision recognizes, in the words of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, that colleges and universities have a ‘compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body,' and that race may be considered as one factor in furthering this interest," Bacow said.

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