Thursday, January 16, 2003

Advocates and opponents of affirmative action both seem to me to have overinflated expectations about the importance of the Michigan case. As long as O'Connor is the swing vote in affirmative action cases, we're not going to get a sweeping, dramatic statement from the Court one way or the other. We're going to continue in the Bakke/Powell holding pattern-- probably steadily reducing the number of approved policies, but never flatly ruling out state-sponsored affirmative action. In the Michigan case, O'Connor's opinion will abstain from judging whether diversity is ever a sufficient rationale for racial preferences in university admissions but will hold that the Michigan policy crossed the Bakke line of acceptability even if the diversity rationale is legitimate. The policy will be struck down (certainly the undergrad policy, likely the law school policy as well), but the diversity argument won't be decisively disallowed or decisively allowed.

Tapped is keenly interested in getting opponents of affirmative action to talk about legacy admissions. I'm much more interested in athletic admissions-- a problem that interacts with affirmative action in complicated and unpleasant ways. I can't understand why the current degree of atheletic admission-preference (much greater than either race or legacy preference) isn't treated as an obvious scandal requiring action long before the hard question of affirmative action is even reached...

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