Press Release

ADL Concerned About Implications of Supreme Court Ruling in Michigan Affirmative Action Case

New York, NY, April 23, 2014 …The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed disappointment that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-2 decision yesterday in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which upheld a Michigan ballot initiative amending the state’s constitution to bar preferential treatment based on race in college and university admissions, also has the effect of preventing public colleges and universities in Michigan from considering race as one non-determinative factor in a holistic review of applicants.  Whatever the merits of the Court’s focus on the rights of Michigan voters, ADL expressed concern that the decision may open the door to troubling policies in other states that may now consider passing similar ballot measures.

Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:

Michigan’s ballot amendment barred preferential treatment based on race in college and university admissions. We agree that college applicants should not be granted preferential treatment based on race. Yet we strongly disagree with the Court’s decision to the extent that it will have the consequence of barring Michigan’s colleges and universities from considering race in any way, even as a non-determinative part of a holistic review of a student’s application.  This decision opens a troubling door for other states to pass similar ballot measures, hampering universities’ abilities to even consider race in creating a diverse, well-rounded incoming class.

Still, we are heartened to see the Court’s specific emphasis that the ruling does not otherwise bar consideration of race in college and university admissions.

It is important to emphasize that, in overturning the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision and finding the amendment constitutional, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s plurality opinion was careful to specify that, “In Fisher, the Court did not disturb the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible, provided that certain conditions are met. In this case, as in Fisher, that principle is not challenged.” Justice Kennedy also wrote that, “Democracy does not presume that some subjects are either too divisive or too profound for public debate.”

We hope that this decision will encourage further dialogue not only about Michigan’s ballot amendment and university admissions processes but, more importantly, about how we as a nation can continue to progress toward a society that affords  justice and fair treatment for all.

ADL filed an amicus brief in the Schuette case focusing on the difference in the university admissions context between problematic “preferential treatment” on the basis of race, and “consideration” of race as one factor in a holistic review of college applicants to create a diverse student body.  ADL urged the Court to read Michigan’s ballot amendment as permitting consideration of race.