Cite as: 539 U. S. 306 (2003)
Opinion of the Court
v. Horowitz, 435 U. S. 78, 96, n. 6 (1978); Bakke, 438 U. S., at 319, n. 53 (opinion of Powell, J.).
We have long recognized that, given the important purpose of public education and the expansive freedoms of speech and thought associated with the university environment, universities occupy a special niche in our constitutional tradition. See, e. g., Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U. S. 183, 195 (1952) (Frankfurter, J., concurring); Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U. S. 234, 250 (1957); Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U. S. 479, 487 (1960); Keyishian v. Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N. Y., 385 U. S., at 603. In announcing the principle of student body diversity as a compelling state interest, Justice Powell invoked our cases recognizing a constitutional dimension, grounded in the First Amendment, of educational autonomy: "The freedom of a university to make its own judgments as to education includes the selection of its student body." Bakke, supra, at 312. From this premise, Justice Powell reasoned that by claiming "the right to select those students who will contribute the most to the 'robust exchange of ideas,' " a university "seek[s] to achieve a goal that is of paramount importance in the fulfillment of its mission." 438 U. S., at 313 (quoting Keyishian v. Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N. Y., supra, at 603). Our conclusion that the Law School has a compelling interest in a diverse student body is informed by our view that attaining a diverse student body is at the heart of the Law School's proper institutional mission, and that "good faith" on the part of a university is "presumed" absent "a showing to the contrary." 438 U. S., at 318-319.
As part of its goal of "assembling a class that is both exceptionally academically qualified and broadly diverse," the Law School seeks to "enroll a 'critical mass' of minority students." Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 13. The Law School's interest is not simply "to assure within its student body some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin." Bakke, 438 U. S., at
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