Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
|Regents of the University of California v. Bakke|
Supreme Court of the United States
|Argued October 8, 1977
Decided June 28, 1978
|Full case name||Regents of the University of California v. Allan Bakke|
|Citations||438 U.S. 265 (more)
98 S. Ct. 2733; 57 L. Ed. 2d 750; 1978 U.S. LEXIS 5; 17 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1000; 17 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P8402
|Prior history||Certiorari to the Supreme Court of California. Bakke v. Regents of University of Cal., 18 Cal. 3d 34, 132 Cal. Rptr. 680, 553 P.2d 1152, 1976 Cal. LEXIS 336 (1976)|
|The Court held that while affirmative action systems are constitutional, a quota system based on race is unconstitutional.|
|Majority||Powell (Parts I and V-C), joined by Brennan, White, Marshall, and Blackmun|
|Plurality||Powell (Part III-A), joined by White|
|Concur/dissent||Brennan, White, Marshall, Blackmun|
|Concur/dissent||Stevens, joined by Burger, Stewart, Rehnquist|
|U.S. Const. amend. XIV|
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978) was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that ruled unconstitutional the admission process of the Medical School at the University of California at Davis, which set aside 16 of the 100 seats for "Blacks," "Chicanos," "Asians," and "American Indians" (and established a separate admissions process for those 16 spaces).
The "diversity in the classroom" justification for the policy of considering race as a factor in the admission process was different from the original purpose stated by U.C. Davis Medical School, whose special admissions program under review was designed to ensure admissions of traditionally discriminated-against minorities. U.C. Davis Medical School originally developed the program to (1) reduce the historic deficit of traditionally disfavored minorities in medical schools and the medical profession, (2) counter the effects of societal discrimination, (3) increase the number of physicians who will practice in communities currently underserved, and (4) obtain the educational benefits that flow from an ethnically diverse student body.
Justice Powell wrote the opinion for the Court, which was joined by Chief Justice Burger, Justice Rehnquist, Justice Stewart, and Justice Stevens, ordering U.C. Davis Medical School to admit Allan Bakke. Justice Powell's rationale, however, did not carry a majority of justices. Justice Powell, writing for himself save Part I and V-C joined by Justice Blackmun, Justice Brennan, Justice Marshall, and Justice White, and Part III-A joined only by Justice White, concluded that while the school had a compelling interest in a diverse student body and therefore could consider race as a "plus" factor in its admissions program (Part IV-D), it could not ex ante set aside seats specifically for a certain race, resulting in the automatic exclusion of others based only on race (Part IV-B).
Chief Justice Burger, Justice Rehnquist, Justice Stewart, and Justice Stevens, while concurring in result, would have not relied on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, but instead, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
Allan Bakke, a 33-year-old white male, applied to twelve medical schools in 1973. He had been a National Merit Scholar at Coral Gables Senior High School, a school in Florida. He was accepted as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, deferring tuition costs by joining ROTC. He graduated with the GPA of 3.51. In order to fulfill his ROTC requirements, he joined the Marines and later served a seven-month tour of duty in Vietnam. In 1967, he received an honorable discharge with the rank of Captain. He worked as an engineer at NASA. He stated that his interest in medicine started in Vietnam, which increased at NASA, as he had to consider the problems of space flight and the human body while at NASA. But twelve medical schools rejected his application for admission.
Bakke first applied to the University of Southern California and Northwestern in 1972 and both rejected him, making a point of his age. Northwestern wrote "his age was above their stated limit." His 1973 application to Davis reflects his anxiety about his age, referring to his year of sacrifice for his country as a setback and cause of his late interest in medicine. His quantitative criterion for acceptance was considered excellent. He took the Medical College Admissions Test, scoring in the top three percent. He also maintained a science GPA of 3.44 and an overall GPA of 3.46 after taking science courses at night to qualify for medical school. He should have been concerned about his age, for he was rejected despite the fact that his scores were well above the scores of an average admittee at University of California Davis medical school. A Davis Faculty member from Bakke's 1973 interview believed that he was a "well-qualified candidate for admission whose main handicap is the unavoidable fact that he is now 33 years of age."
Allan Bakke applied to University of California, Davis School of Medicine in 1973 and 1974, but was rejected in both years, although "special applicants" were admitted with significantly lower academic scores than Bakke's. However, the "regular committee often turned down well-qualified minority applicants" claiming that a 3.4 GPA was not a 3.6 GPA. These special applicants were admitted under provisions either for members of a "minority groups" (such as Blacks or Hispanics), or as "economically and/or educationally disadvantaged" – but although many disadvantaged Caucasians had applied under this second provision, none had been successful. In 1974, in particular, the special admissions committee explicitly stated they would consider only candidates who were from explicitly designated minority groups.
After his second rejection, Bakke filed an action in state court for mandatory, injunctive, and declaratory relief to compel his admission to Davis, alleging that the special admissions program operated to exclude him on the basis of his race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
U.C. Davis Medical School counter-claimed for a declaration that its special admissions program was lawful.
The trial court found that the special program operated as a racial quota, because minority applicants in that program were rated only against one another, and 16 places in the class were reserved for the clause. Because the Medical School could not satisfy its burden of demonstrating that, absent the special program, Bakke would not have been admitted, the court ordered his admission to the Medical School. Bakke began his studies at the University of California Medical School at Davis in fall of 1978, graduated in 1982, and later served as a resident at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Since the Supreme Court decided Bakke, California banned the state's use of race as a factor to consider in public schools' admission policies. California's Proposition 209 mandates that "the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
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It is important to note that there were two opposing 4-person plurality opinions and then Justice Powell's. Each of the 4-person plurality opinions concurred only with parts of Justice Powell's opinion and not the same parts.
Justices Brennan, White, Marshall and Blackmun concluded in one plurality opinion that race could be used as a factor when it was for the purpose of remedying substantial chronic underrepresentation of certain minorities in the medical profession.
Chief Justice Burger, Justice Stewart, and Justice Rehnquist joined Justice Stevens' view that whether race could ever be a factor was not at issue in the case, but that the special admissions program under consideration violated Title VII because it excluded from consideration an applicant on the basis of race.
Justice Powell concluded that though race could not be the basis for excluding a candidate, race may be one of many factors in admissions considerations.
The issue before the Court was twofold# 1. Whether Bakke's exclusion from consideration in U.C. Davis Medical School special admissions program for minorities because he was white was unconstitutional and a violation of section VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and 2. if it was unconstitutional, should U.C. Davis Medical School be required to admit him.
Justice Powell concluded that excluding a candidate from consideration solely on the basis of race was unconstitutional, no matter what the purpose, and since U.C. Davis Medical School could not prove that, even without the special admissions program, Bakke would never have been admitted anyway, U.C. Davis was compelled to admit Bakke.
Though the Stevens' plurality opinion did not concur with Powell's assertion that race could be one factor among many in admissions' considerations, it did agree with Powell that the U.C. Davis special admissions program excluding Bakke because he was white was unconstitutional. Stevens' plurality also concurred with that part of Powell's opinion that U.C. Davis should be required to admit Bakke.
Therefore, though there was no clear-cut majority view on using race as a factor in general, there was a 5–4 split in which the majority (the Stevens plurality and Powell) agreed that the U.C. Davis special admissions program was unconstitutional because it excluded applicants on the basis of race. Similarly the same 5–4 split concurred that U.C. Davis be required to admit Bakke.
Some refer to using race as a basis to exclude applicants as a racial quota system. An institution's special admissions program that is designed to admit people of a certain ethnic group and excludes consideration of candidates from other ethnic groups is in effect an assurance that the institution will admit a certain number of the members from a specified ethnic group, i.e. the institution meets a quota of members of those designated ethnic groups. Justice Powell, who announced the judgment of the court, stated that the appellation of the process is irrelevant (at page 289.)
Powell found that quotas insulated minority applicants from competition with the regular applicants and were thus unconstitutional because they discriminated against non-minority applicants. Powell however stated that universities could use race as a plus factor. He cited the Harvard College Admissions Program which had been filed as an amicus curiae as an example of a constitutionally valid affirmative action program which took into account all of an applicant's qualities including race in a "holistic review".
Title VII of the civil rights statute prohibits racial discrimination in any institution that receives federal funding. Justices Burger, Stewart, Rehnquist, and Stevens supported a strict interpretation and, thus, ruled in favor of Bakke. Justices Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, and White, however, disagreed with a rigid and literal interpretation of Title VII. The nature of this split opinion created controversy over whether Powell's opinion was binding. However, in 2003, in Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court affirmed Powell's opinion, rejecting "quotas", but allowing race to be one "factor" in college admissions to meet the compelling interest of diversity.
- Dreyfuss, Joel (1979). The Bakke Case: the Politics of Inequality. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- Dreyfuss, Joel (1979). The Bakke Case: the politics of inequality. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. pg16.
- Dreyfuss, Joel (1979). The Bakke Case: the politics of inequality. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 13 & 16.
- Dreyfuss, Joel (1979). The Bakke Case: The Politics of Inequality. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- Dreyfuss, Joel (1979). The Bakke Case: the politics of inequality. New York and London: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. p. 42.
- "Text of Proposition 209".
- Text of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978) is available from: Justia · Findlaw