Washington — Marcia O. Wright,24,was so busy studying for the bar exam that she didn't hear about the Supreme Court’s rulings in the two Michigan affirmative action cases until almost four hours after they were handed down Monday.
But when she heard the news as she left her bar exam review class at George Mason University,in Arlington,Va.,she said,“I'm extremely excited about the law school decision — period.”
“Minorities already have a hard time getting into law school,” she said,blaming the universities that feel they can be “fruitful without the voices of minorities.”
Wright said she understood why the Supreme Court ruled that U of M's point system for undergraduate admissions needs revamping.
“Twenty points is a lot,” said the alumna of the Catholic University of America School of Law. “But if points are limited,it would affect blacks in the long run.”
Wright said she was one of 47 black students to enter the CUA School of Law in 2000.
Nelson Lund,a law professor at GMU,said that the split decision gives universities the nod to create diversity at the expense of whites and Asians.
“It means that in college and university admissions,schools are now free to discriminate in favor of minorities pretty much as much as they want to so long as they use a fig leaf of individual consideration,” Lund said.
Lund said that he even signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down both affirmative action plans.
“I believe they should stop discriminating,” Lund said,“but they don't want to,and the Supreme Court says they don't have to.”
Michael K. Young,dean of the George Washington University Law School,said that race “can't be an overriding factor” in college admissions.
“I never thought this case was very important,” Young said. “It doesn't matter what the Supreme Court says; the school is going to find a way to produce that student the employer demands.”
Young said he didn't see anything that would change in GWU's program.
Sarah Stoller,27,of Washington,a recent GWU law school grad,said that she was relieved.
“I'm glad to see it's still something that's valued,even the ideal of affirmative action,” Stoller said. “I was afraid they were going to say it wasn't necessary anymore.”
Her friend,fellow graduate Carrie Fletcher,26,of Sandy Spring,Md.,said,“Diversity,not just race based,but diversity in general,is an important quality in higher education.”
“The more diverse a school system,then the more there's an exchange of ideas and everyone gets a greater education,” she said.
Outside the Supreme Court building between 100 and 175 people waited in line to get into the court chambers Monday morning.
Josh Hsu,23,a second-year law student at Georgetown University Law School,said that he got in line about 6 a.m. Hsu was one of the first in line.
“The decision was what everyone expected,” Hsu said. “They weren't going to outright outlaw affirmative action.”
Two women from Bowling Green,Ohio,dressed in Michigan T-shirts in the school colors of blue and gold also stood in line. Both are summer interns in the capital.
“We came here because we really want to support our school,” said Hana Bae,a junior political science student at the University of Michigan,who was in the final quarter of the line.
“I definitely want to see race as a factor in college admissions,” said Katya Melcote,also a junior at Michigan.
A recent Michigan graduate stood on the courthouse steps after the decision was released holding a sign opposing affirmative action. He was ushered off the steps by security officers.
“I don't think that you can use diversity as an excuse for racism,” said Justin Wilson,of Ann Arbor,who recently received a degree from Michigan in political science.
At Georgetown law’s nearby campus,constitutional law student Caleb Mason,29,said,“If you care about diversity in business,you've got to have it in professional schools.”
Mason was disappointed with the undergraduate case decision.
“It's difficult as a law student to find some coherent principle behind these decisions,” he said.
Richard Lazarus,a Georgetown law professor,said that he had expected that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor would be the deciding vote.
“The question was if there would be any room for race-conscious admissions,and the answer after this case is decidedly yes,” Lazarus said.
Lazarus said many schools that follow admission policies similar to those of Michigan's undergraduate school will have to change their systems. The undergraduate decision may especially affect larger schools that use more mechanical admission policies,Lazarus said.
“Social economic factors are more important than ethnic factors,” said Ari Ghosal,31,of Washington,who said race should not be an issue. He was studying for the bar exam at Catholic University of America.
“There are white students,for example,from Appalachia,Virginia,that do not have the opportunity to attend a private school. Everybody should have the same opportunities,” Ghosal said.
Craig Costa,26, of Washington,said that affirmative action should not last forever,that it should be just a part of a process that relates to social circumstances.
“It is only positive as a transitionary stage,” he said.
Costa said that,even though he is a minority — he is Asian-American — he likes to achieve his goals based upon his own effort and capability.
“Affirmative action does not require you to do anything. Race should be considered as an extra factor,” he said.
— This story was reported by Lauren Legard,Erin Hill,Erica Ryan,Talia Buford and Isaac Itman