- The Washington Times - Monday, February 17, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 (UPI) — Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt is backing the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies, the school said Monday.

The Missouri representative and former House Democratic leader is among those filing briefs in support of the university at the Supreme Court this week. Gephardt's name heads a group of U.S. House members backing the school.

Earlier, the Bush administration filed briefs supporting the white students who are challenging the school's policies.

The Supreme Court hears the challenges in two separate cases April 1.

Meanwhile, the University of Michigan has told the justices in a brief that if colleges are not allowed to use race as a factor in their admissions policies, it will "de-integrate" the nation's institutions of higher learning.

In his friend-of-the-court brief, Gephardt throws down the gauntlet, contending that the administration's recommendation to the court is unconstitutional and will not produce diversity.

The Missouri representative also gets out in front of other Democratic presidential contenders by being the first to file brief in the cases, making a bid for the support of a key Democratic constituency.

The Bush administration maintains that the university's Law School and undergraduate admissions policies, which give blacks and some Hispanics an advantage when applying, are unconstitutional because they favor some races over others.

The 14th Amendment guarantees equal protection under the law.

The administration instead suggests that a certain percentage of the top students in each high school be given an advantage. Since many high schools are mostly white or mostly minority, that would have the effect of producing diversity, Justice Department lawyers argue.

The administration contends that approach has worked in California, Florida and Texas.

Gephardt, however, challenges that assessment.

The "alleged race-neutral alternatives put forward by the Bush administration are not really 'race-neutral' at all," Gephardt says in his brief. "These percentage plans, standing alone, are not effective in maintaining current levels of diversity nationwide. They also rely, to a great extent, on racially segregated high schools to produce racial diversity in colleges. Therefore, these alleged race-neutral alternatives are constitutionally suspect."

Others filing "amicus curiae," or friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the university this week include the American Educational Support Committee, the American Jewish Committee, Columbia University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National Education Association, the New America Alliance, the University of North Carolina School of Law and the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, among others.

(No. 02-241, Grutter vs. Bollinger; and No. 02-516, Gratz vs. Bollinger)

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