Back to Bakke

Back to Bakke

Back to Bakke

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
June 24 2003 5:06 AM

Back to Bakke

Everybody leads with the Supreme Court's limited endorsement of affirmative action. In one decision, the court upheld by a 5-4 vote University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program, ruling that race can be a factor in admissions. But by a 6-3 margin the court struck down Michigan's undergraduate affirmative action program—which awarded points based on race and other factors—saying that it was too "mechanical" and doesn't give "individual consideration" to applicants, effectively making race a "decisive" factor.

As USA Today says, the rulings—which will affect most schools since most get some federal funding—"enshrine the rationale" developed with the court's 1978 Bakke ruling. In that 25-year-old case, then Justice Lewis Powell forwarded the notion that diversity is a "compelling state interest" and that race should thus be considered "a plus" factor but not a deciding one. Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, who provided the swing vote endorsing affirmative action, wrote in her decision, "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civic life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized." She also said that affirmative action is "potentially so dangerous" that it should be eventually phased out.

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A New York Times analysis said yesterday's ruling finally gives universities a "road-map" for creating constitutionally credible affirmative action programs. The Washington Post says most schools will basically get to keep their affirmative action programs as they are.

Among the dissenters who opposed yesterday's pro-affirmative action ruling was Justice Antonin Scalia, who warned that "some future lawsuits" would no doubt take universities to task for not adequately evaluating the applicant "as an individual." The Los Angeles Times previews some of those potential suits.

Dissenting from the decision against Michigan's point-based system, Justices Souter and Ginsburg said that their colleagues are fooling themselves if they think that every applicant, even at large universities, is going to be judged as an "individual" and not as a set of numbers. "If honesty is the best policy," Ginsburg and Souter wrote, "surely Michigan's accurately described, fully disclosed college affirmative action program is preferable to achieving similar numbers through winks, nods, and disguises."

Yesterday's ruling is obviously an historic decision. But how about an article—OK, maybe an op-ed—explaining how much of an impact higher education affirmative action programs really make in the larger scheme of things? That is, how many students will likely be affected by it and how well does higher-ed affirmative action address the much larger educational inequities in America—namely in primary and secondary school? 

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The papers all also front the Supremes' other big ruling: In a 6-3 decision, the court upheld a law requiring federally funded libraries to install porn filters—even if those filters block some non-T&A sites.

The Post and LAT front, and the NYT stuffs, the Bush administration's decision to drop criminal charges against a Qatari man currently jailed in the U.S. and to reclassify him as an "enemy combatant." Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri had been jailed since December 2001, first as a material witness then for credit card fraud and for allegedly lying to the FBI. He's now been transferred to a Navy brig in South Carolina where he can be held indefinitely and won't have any constitutional protections. The White House said it decided to change Al-Marri's designation after Sheikh Khalid Mohammed fingered him as an AQ helper. Al-Marri's lawyer told the Post the move was made because the government doesn't have a case.

Everybody fronts the latest on last week's still-murky U.S. attack on an Iraqi convoy near the Syrian border: U.S. forces actually wounded three to five Syrian border guards, who are now in U.S. hands and being treated. Syria, interestingly, doesn't seem too perturbed by the situation. "We hope they will be returned very soon," said one Syrian diplomat.

The NYT says investigators have "all but ruled out" the possibility that Saddam or either of his sons was killed in the raid. One unnamed defense official told the Post that the convoy carried "personnel associated with Iraqi leadership—the association was unclear." The official added, "For all we know, they could have been a smuggling pipeline."

The Post's Anthony Shadid actually traveled to the border town where the attack happened. His report, which unfortunately lands inside the paper, says that at least two bystanders were killed in the U.S. attack, including a 1-year-old girl. Villagers also insisted that the men in the destroyed convoy were just sheep smugglers—though residents acknowledged that they weren't certain who all the riders were. 

Everybody mentions Iraq boss Paul Bremer's decision to reverse his previous decision and start paying the salaries of Iraq's 400,000 former soldiers—presumably so they don't turn into guerrillas as they've threatened to do.

The papers also notice that the U.S. announced that a new Iraqi army is now in the works. The goal is to have 12,000 troops after one year and eventually a total of 40,000 soldiers.

The WP mentions that the military is investigating the death of an Afghan man who died in U.S. custody this weekend. Last December, two other Afghan men died in custody—their deaths, which are still being investigated, were ruled homicides.

A poll by the Post notices that "a majority of Americans" (or at least respondents) would support military action against Iran in order to stop it from getting nukes. Even more intriguing: One in four respondents said that during the recent war, "Iraq used chemical or biological weapons against U.S. troops."