In a Solomon-like attempt to split the difference on affirmative action, the Supreme Court has upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action program while rejecting the University of Michigan’s undergraduate affirmative action plan. And what is the difference between those two programs? Primarily, that the undergraduate program is more explicit and honest about its racial preferences. While the law school’s admissions process allows for a concern for diversity to be considered as one factor among many when considering individual applications, the undergraduate admissions process assigns a specific number of bonus points (20 out of 150 total) to applicants who belong to particular minority groups. Amy pithily sums up the Court’s bottom line like so:
Nutshell: it's a-okay for colleges to like some people more than others because of the color of their skin, just as long as they don't like them too much more.But it’s even worse that that, because the Court has created a reward for dishonesty. In terms of the incentives now faced by academic institutions, the new rule could be summarized like so: It’s a-okay for colleges to like some people more than others because of the color of their skin, so long as they are sufficiently vague and surreptitious about how they implement their biases.
See here for my comments about the efficacy of affirmative action programs as a means of achieving diversity.