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MIT enlists allies in brief supporting U. Michigan

MIT was joined by a powerful coalition of prestigious universities, business titans and leading U.S. scientific advisory groups in filing a Supreme Court brief supporting University of Michigan policies that include race as a factor in admissions.

The co-signers of MIT's amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief in Gruttrer v. Bollinger and Gratz vs. Bollinger were Stanford University, DuPont, IBM, the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, a consortium of companies dedicated to promoting the diversity of the engineering work force.

The two cases--one involving admissions to the University of Michigan Law School and the other to its College of Literature, Science and the Arts--are scheduled for oral arguments before the court on April 1. The cases stem from lawsuits filed against the university by unsuccessful applicants who argued that race should not be a factor in admissions (the defendant, Lee Bollinger, was president of the University of Michigan when the suits were originally filed).

"As great universities, leading corporations and national academies, we have a profound responsibility to provide for the future economic strength, health and security of this nation," said President Charles M. Vest when the brief was filed. "The court must not block our path to building the diverse scientific and engineering workforce and leadership we need to do the job."

Vest cited four key points in the brief:

• "The interest of colleges and universities, including those with a strong focus on science and engineering, in achieving diversity of our student bodies and academic communities is compelling in many critical respects.

• "We must retain our freedom to consider race as one of many factors when admitting students in order to achieve this diversity and to select the most promising students.

• "This is true for private as well as public institutions.

• "A diverse workforce and future leadership in science and engineering will be essential to our nation's future economic strength."

"Together, this group represents American education and industry," said senior counsel Jamie L. Keith, who worked with constitutional experts at the Washington law firm Jones Day in writing the brief and also worked to consolidate the coalition of co-sponsors. "I hope we made the point that diversity is essential for the country to maintain its leadership position in the world today."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 26, 2003.

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