Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244, 28 (2003)

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Cite as: 539 U. S. 244 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

deemed a 'plus' in a particular applicant's file." Id., at 317. He explained that such a program might allow for "[t]he file of a particular black applicant [to] be examined for his potential contribution to diversity without the factor of race being decisive when compared, for example, with that of an applicant identified as an Italian-American if the latter is thought to exhibit qualities more likely to promote beneficial educational pluralism." Ibid. Such a system, in Justice Powell's view, would be "flexible enough to consider all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant." Ibid.

Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke emphasized the importance of considering each particular applicant as an individual, assessing all of the qualities that individual possesses, and in turn, evaluating that individual's ability to contribute to the unique setting of higher education. The admissions program Justice Powell described, however, did not contemplate that any single characteristic automatically ensured a specific and identifiable contribution to a university's diversity. See id., at 315. See also Metro Broadcasting, Inc. v. FCC, 497 U. S. 547, 618 (1990) (O'Connor, J., dissenting) (concluding that the Federal Communications Commission's policy, which "embodie[d] the related notions . . . that a particular applicant, by virtue of race or ethnicity alone, is more valued than other applicants because [the applicant is] 'likely to provide [a] distinct perspective,' " "impermissibly value[d] individuals" based on a presumption that "persons think in a manner associated with their race"). Instead, under the approach Justice Powell described, each characteristic of a particular applicant was to be considered in assessing the applicant's entire application.

The current LSA policy does not provide such individualized consideration. The LSA's policy automatically distributes 20 points to every single applicant from an "underrepresented minority" group, as defined by the University. The only consideration that accompanies this distribution of


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