- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 14, 2000

DETROIT (AP) A federal judge yesterday upheld the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in admissions, saying there is "solid evidence" of the benefits of a "diverse student body."

"Hopefully, there may come a day when universities are able to achieve the desired diversity without resort to racial preferences," U.S. District Judge Patrick Duggan said in affirming undergraduate admissions standards that have been in place since last year.

The case is being watched closely across the country because many colleges and universities give preferences to black and Hispanic applicants.

If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, a ruling against Michigan could abolish such practices.

There was no immediate word on whether the two white students who sued after they were denied admission will appeal.

"We continue to believe that public universities have no right under the equal protection clause to engineer a particular racial mix of students," said Terence Pell, chief executive of the Center for Individual Rights, which represents the white students.

Mr. Pell's group succeeded in a lawsuit that ended racial preferences at the University of Texas law school in 1996 and is supporting two lawsuits targeting Michigan's policies.

The second lawsuit, against the university's law school admissions policies, is scheduled for trial in January before a different judge.

The plaintiffs contend race has become a decisive factor that discriminates against white students. In the challenge to Michigan's undergraduate admissions standards, Judge Duggan said the policy used from 1995 through 1998 was unconstitutional. But the judge upheld the university's current affirmative action system.

He said Michigan presented "solid evidence regarding the educational benefits that flow from a racially and ethnically diverse student body."

Of Michigan's 38,000 undergraduate and graduate students, about 13 percent are black, Hispanic or American Indian.

Until a few years ago, Michigan used a grid that sorted applicants by grades, test scores and race. Now, the school grades applicants on a 150-point scale. Blacks, Hispanics or Indians get 20 points for their race equal to raising their grade-point average a full point on a four-point scale.

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