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Diversity on Trial: Affirmative Action’s Michigan Test (Podcast)

Nov. 15, 2022, 6:52 PM

In 1978, the Supreme Court allowed colleges to take race into account when crafting their incoming classes. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, that’s what many schools did: to get a diverse incoming class, universities used race as one factor among many.

But some schools get a lot of applicants — tens of thousands of students applying for just a few thousand spots. How do you complete an individualized review of so many people? How do you make sure you consider race consistently across those tens of thousands? Is there a way to streamline the process while still complying with what Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr. said the Equal Protection Clause requires?

This is the second episode of UnCommon Law’s three-part series about the Supreme Court’s biggest affirmative action in education cases. In the first episode we looked at the 1978 case of Allan Bakke, an applicant to medical school who was denied admission. In this episode, we explore the 2003 cases of Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger.

Guests include:

  • Diego BernalTexas state representative and former president of the Latino Law Students Association at the University of Michigan Law School
  • Michelle AdamsProfessor at the University of Michigan Law School
  • Greg Stohr — Supreme Court reporter for Bloomberg News
  • Ted ShawProfessor at the University of North Carolina, and former president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund
  • Terence PellPresident of the Center for Individual Rights
  • Marvin KrislovPresident of Pace University, and former vice president and general counsel at the University of Michigan
  • Lee BollingerPresident of Columbia University, and former president of the University of Michigan
  • Agnes AleobuaPrincipal of Citizens Academy Glenville in Cleveland, and former student intervenor at the University of Michigan
  • Cristina RodríguezProfessor at Yale Law School and former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Listen and subscribe to UnCommon Law on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Megaphone, or Audible.

To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew S. Schwartz at

To contact the executive producer responsible for this story: Josh Block at