Affirmative fallout

February 14, 2003

If the US Supreme Court outlaws affirmative action in university admissions, it is not true that "private universities would be unaffected" ("US split over 'race' policy", THES , January 24).

The 1996 federal-court decision Hopwood v Texas , which banned race-sensitive admissions in Texas, is understood to cover both private and public universities. Any decision by the Supreme Court as to what constitutes "discrimination" will, according to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, cover all private universities that receive federal funds.

Given that virtually all private universities receive research grants from the federal government, most notably from the National Institutes of Health for Biomedical Research, affirmative action in college admissions in the US will most certainly be illegal.

Indeed, because the very selective private colleges - a group that includes Yale, Penn, Columbia and Duke universities and about 20 other institutions - have invested heavily in creating a diverse student body, it is probable that an adverse decision would affect them more than it would the large state universities.

Simon Baatz
Washington, DC

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