Skip to main content

Vanderbilt, four other universities file amicus brief in Michigan case

Feb. 14, 2003, 4:35 PM

NOTE: Click here for a copy of the amicus brief in .pdf format.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt and four other leading private universities have filed an amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School in their efforts to defend the principles of affirmative action in college admissions.

The brief, which was jointly developed and signed by Vanderbilt, Cornell, Columbia, Georgetown and Rice, is one of what is expected to be a large number of "friends of the court" statements submitted on both sides of the landmark legal case, which will be heard by the Supreme Court beginning in April.

"Vanderbilt and our fellow institutions are focused on preparing students for the complexities of a rapidly changing world, one in which diversity of background, perspective and thought is an essential component," said Chancellor Gordon Gee. "It is equally essential that we maintain the ability to select and provide opportunities for students free of arbitrary legal mandates."

The brief states that a university’s constitutionally based academic freedom interests can be accommodated and the equal protection interests of the plaintiffs still vindicated by giving "a high degree of deference to a university’s good-faith determination as to how to further its academic mission.

"In the course of the wrenching legal and public policy debate about university admission policies that take account of race to some degree or other, little has been said about the First Amendment rights of the universities themselves."

The argument concludes by noting, "In this case, the University of Michigan has determined that to achieve a level of diversity consistent with the university’s educational mission, it was necessary to consider race as one of many factors in the admissions process. That is the same decision that public and private colleges and universities throughout the country have made for themselves, tailored by each for the accomplishment of its educational mission."

Noted First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams of the law firm Cahill Gordon & Reindel in New York City prepared the brief, with input from Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and General Counsel David Williams II and the chief legal officers from the four schools.

Questions from the media concerning the arguments in the brief should be addressed to Mr. Abrams. His telephone number is
(212) 701-3000.

Media contact: Michael Schoenfeld, 615-343-9721