Allan Bakke, a thirty-five-year-old white man, had twice applied for admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis. He was rejected both times. The school reserved sixteen places in each entering class of one hundred for “qualified” minorities, as part of the university’s affirmative action program, in an effort to redress longstanding, unfair minority exclusions from the medical profession. Bakke’s qualifications (college GPA and test scores) exceeded those of any of the minority students admitted in the two years Bakke’s applications were rejected. Bakke contended, first in the California courts, then in the Supreme Court, that he was excluded from admission solely on the basis of race. ISSUE: Did the University of California violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, by practicing an affirmative action policy that resulted in the repeated rejection of Bakke’s application for admission to its medical school?
OPINION: The special admissions program is unconstitutional, but race may be considered as a factor in the admissions process. Justice Lewis Powell (J. Powell), writing for the court, says that the Supreme Court of the United States (Supreme Court) should not pay attention to past discrimination in reviewing the policies of the University, as this is equivalent to allowing political trends to dictate constitutional principles. J. Powell determines that accepting a minimum number of minorities simply to reduce the traditional deficit of such individuals in the medical profession is unconstitutional, as it gives preference to an individual on the basis of race alone.
The major determination of the Supreme Court is whether or not racial preference may be used to promote diversity of the student body. J. Powell argues that setting aside a specified number of minority slots is not congruent to the purported goal – minority students in themselves do not guarantee a diversity of viewpoints in the educational environment. SIGNIFICANCE: Although race may be a factor in determining admission to public educational institutions, it may not be a sole determining factor.