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Published: June 28, 2011

Gratz v. Bollinger

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in June 2003 banning the University of Michigan’s use of a “point system” that arbitrarily awarded a wide range of values to different elements in college applications—SAT scores, high school grades, extracurricular activities, gender and so forth—and gave undue weight to race and membership in nonwhite minority groups. One of two class-action suits against the university’s president by groups of white applicants, Gratz v. Bollinger produced a victory for the plaintiffs, with the Supreme Court ruling against the university’s use of a point scale in evaluating undergraduate admissions applications. Under the university’s 150-point system, applicants needed an accumulation of 100 points to win admissions, and minority status as a black, Hispanic or American Indian was worth a disproportionate 20-point “race” bonus—the same amount awarded for a 4.0, or perfect, high school grade point average. Although the Court did not disallow consideration of race in the evaluation of admissions applications, it banned the university—and, by inference, all colleges and universities—from giving it more weight in admissions considerations than any other “personal characteristics,” such as being an Eagle Scout, president of the class or captain of the football team.