And Justice Sandra Day O’Connor quoted extensively from it in her opinion that upheld Michigan’s policy.
In the Fisher case, opponents of affirmative action hope for a similar breakthrough by telling the court that racial preferences have harmed rather than helped.
A fourth Civil Rights Commission member, Abigail Thernstrom, says affirmative action undermines race relations “by heightening stereotypes and creating greater separation and self-segregation between racial groups.”
She adds that the preferences create disincentives for black and Hispanic students to work hard and they increase those students’ “self-doubts about their abilities to succeed academically.”
Affirmative action opponents urge the court to consider the theory that race-preferential admissions policies have resulted in a “mismatch” of selective universities and minority students unprepared for the academic rigor they require.
The theory is advanced by UCLA law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor Jr. in a new book and in a brief to the court. They say there are wide academic gaps between minority students admitted because of their race and their fellow students, and lead to lower grades and graduation rates and cause some students to switch to less-challenging majors.
But another objective of amicus briefs is to make sure no assertion goes unchallenged.
So UT’s amici include “95 experimental psychologists” and “444 American social science researchers” and “57 Fortune 100” companies with testimonials to the importance of diversity.
Blatt filed a brief on behalf of the American Psychological Association that said “campus diversity reduces prejudice, enhances leadership skills, and better prepares students to participate in modern civic society and the contemporary workplace.”
It calls the mismatch theory “dangerous” and “discredited,” and says numerous studies have proved that “a university’s consideration of race as a factor in admissions narrows retention rate gaps between different student groups.”
Which leaves the eight justices — Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case, presumably because she had worked on it as President Obama’s solicitor general — to sort it out.
For previous High Court columns, go to washingtonpost.com/fedpage.