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Democrats Endorse Admissions Policy

A House group enters court fight to support affirmative action at University of Michigan.

February 14, 2003|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — More than 100 House Democrats, including presidential hopeful Richard A. Gephardt and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, filed briefs Thursday with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policy.

Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat and a graduate of Michigan's law school, criticized President Bush for opposing the university's policy.

"I believe we must continue to work toward greater inclusiveness in higher education and reject the backward-looking policies of the Bush administration that would deny our nation's compelling interest in ensuring diversity," Gephardt said.

Bush said last month that he supports diversity in higher education, but that Michigan's program "unfairly rewards or penalizes students based solely on their race." His administration has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to strike down the university's policy.

Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said affirmative action "is as fundamental as our democracy itself."

"We must not deprive these young people of their opportunity," she said, flanked by members of the black, Hispanic and Asian House caucuses.

A spokeswoman for Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said nearly 110 House members had signed on by midafternoon Thursday. Gephardt filed a separate brief along with six House members who also signed Conyers' brief. Both briefs argue that Michigan's policy is constitutional.

Last week, more than 40 Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft, American Airlines and Procter & Gamble, filed briefs siding with Michigan. Bush's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is one of about a dozen people or organizations that have filed briefs opposing the university.

Michigan's admissions policies have been under fire since 1997, when the university was sued by two whites denied admission to its undergraduate school and a third denied admission to its law school.

Applicants for Michigan's undergraduate classes are scored by points, with minorities or some poor applicants receiving 20 points on a scale of 150.

The Bush administration says the point system is skewed toward minorities, noting that a perfect SAT score is worth just 12 points and an outstanding essay gets three points.

The cases are Grutter vs. Bollinger, 02-241 and Gratz vs. Bollinger, 02-516.

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