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February 24, 2003
Washington Argues States Should Decide Their Own Diversity Policies

OLYMPIA -- Washington has joined 20 other states and one territory in support of the University of Michigan's right to establish admissions policies that promote student diversity on state-operated college campuses.

Washington and the other states filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in a Michigan case before the U.S. Supreme Court that could determine whether public universities can take race into account when making college admission decisions.

"A diverse student body enhances the state's ability to ready its work force to compete in the global economy," Attorney General Christine Gregoire said.

In Washington, policies that include race as a university admissions factor were outlawed by passage of Initiative 200 in 1998. That initiative banned preferential treatment in public employment, public education or public contracting on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Washington's amicus is not intended to change the policy set by voters under Initiative 200. It is, however, intended to give each state the right to choose university admission factors. "We need to preserve the right of people in each state to decide how best to achieve ethnic diversity on their campuses," Gregoire explained.

"By arguing Michigan's plan is constitutional doesn't mean all states must adopt the plan," Gregoire explained. "We are simply arguing it is a legal option for states to consider."

In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Michigan case now before the Supreme Court, opponents of the Michigan admissions policy sued in federal court, claiming the policy violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The policy was upheld by the federal District Court and by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Among those who support Michigan's admissions policy is Gov. Gary Locke.

"The University of Michigan's admissions process is fair and reasonable," Locke said. "It is a narrowly tailored plan that considers race as one of many factors to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body." The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Grutter case in December. It will be argued on April 1.


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