Bakke Wins, Quotas Lose

But the divided Supreme Court endorses affirmative action based on race

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In not relying on quotas, universities may have to use more ingenuity in finding qualified minority students. "I think there has to be more active recruitment of minorities," says California Governor Jerry Brown. "Top management can't just go out and set up an affirmative-action program and then sit back and drink brandy and smoke cigars. They've got to put more energy into finding people and letting them know they truly want their school or profession to reflect the population at large." Joseph Ceithaml, admissions officer and dean of students at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, thinks the "emphasis will be more on preparing minorities and building a pool of minority students to draw from. This may mean fewer accepted applicants among minorities in the next few years until the pool is built up."

Some believe the Bakke decision will make it easier for blacks and whites to work together on affirmative action. Says New York Senator Pat Moynihan: "A bureaucracy that says, 'White teachers get in this line and blacks in this line,' threatens to break up the coalition that worked for affirmative action in the first place. The Bakke decision gets us back into a sensible mainstream idea of what affirmative action should be. Maybe now we can put the coalition back together."

The Bakke decision, some observers feel, is an appeal to treat people as individuals rather than as members of categories. Says Syracuse University Religion Professor Michael Novak: "I think that like a great aircraft carrier, the court changed direction, and only two or three degrees of that direction are apparent now. But I hope this means an increased respect for the fact that every individual has a history, and that history has some relevance." Nathan Glazer, Harvard professor of education and author of Affirmative Discrimination, believes that "what the Supreme Court called for is human. It is asking for the kind of behavior any commonsensical human being would believe in."

Although the Supreme Court's ruling may have broad implications in all aspects of race relations, it deals specifically with university admissions. Powell's long decision did not directly address the equally fundamental issue of affirmative action with respect to jobs and promotions, areas in which quotas of various sorts are widespread (and widely disputed). Under a Labor Department program, for example, firms employing 50 or more people and receiving federal contracts of more than $50,000 are given about five years to increase the number of minority employees until the percentage of these employees in the company matches their proportion in the surrounding population. Otherwise, the firms may lose their federal contracts.

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