Valuing diversity

Bacow lauds Supreme Court rulings on admissions practices

Tufts President Lawrence S. Bacow applauded the June 23 Supreme Court rulings in two cases considered to be the most significant tests of affirmative action in a generation. The court supported the use of race in admissions decisions.

In two split decisions on separate cases filed against the University of Michigan, the Supreme Court justices clarified the role of affirmative action practices. In one case, the court struck down an explicit point system used by Michigan's undergraduate admissions office. In the other case, the justices upheld a University of Michigan Law School policy that takes into consideration individualized attributes of candidates for admission, including race.

"I am pleased that the court has now created a roadmap that will enable Tufts University and other schools across the country to continue to enroll students who enrich the educational environment for all students on campus," Bacow said. "Tufts values diversity—in every dimension—as a critical element in adequately preparing students for a rapidly changing world."

In the majority opinion on the law school case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote, "[The Constitution] does not prohibit the law school's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body." The decision supports the efforts Tufts and other universities have made to enroll a diverse student population.

Earlier this year, Tufts joined other private and public colleges, military and corporate leaders in supporting an amicus curiae brief submitted to the court. The brief emphasized the university's firm belief in the importance of diversity in ensuring the excellence and effectiveness of higher education in a complex, interdependent world. It was one of the few briefs cited by the court.

Because many members of the Tufts community "may be asked by colleagues, friends and family for their thoughts on this important ruling," Bacow said, "I thought an expansion of the university's perspective on this matter might be helpful.

"All of us are limited by our experience and range of perspective," he continued. "As a result, we learn from our differences. At Tufts, first-hand experience and personal interaction with students from different cultures and backgrounds create learning opportunities for all members of our community.

"We consider more than a limited range of objective characteristics in deciding whom to admit to Tufts," Bacow said. "We look for students who are interested in different subjects, extracurricular activities and careers. We seek to admit a class that provides each student with access to an extraordinarily interesting, diverse and distinctive set of friends and classmates. This diversity contributes to an exceptional education."