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Affirmative Action

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Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is the deliberate effort to provide full and equal opportunities in employment, education and other areas for members of traditionally disadvantaged groups. It applies only to organizations such as universities, agencies and other firms that receive federal funding or contracts.

One example of affirmative action is the 1971 Supreme Court case of Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg County Board of Education. The Court case authorized the busing of students out of their own neighborhoods in order to attain the goal of racially integrated schools. The Supreme Court stated that bussing the students to other schools was constitutionally permissible in cases where there were earlier acts of racial discrimination due to school segregation. This shows affirmative action because the Court made an effort and set up a plan to give blacks the opportunity to attend the same schools as the white students. The outcome of this gave mixed results. The busing improved the racial attitudes of the students and it also raised their performance level on standardized tests. Yet this also required children to spend many hours a day on the long bus ride to and from school.

An example against affirmative action was in the 1978 court case, University of California Regents v. Bakke. The medical school that Bakke applied to had established "a quota" of admissions for minority students applying to their school. Alan Bakke who was a white male, had not been accepted by the medical school even though the school had accepted minority applicants who had lower test scores then Bakke. The Court ruling was that the medical school had violated Blakke's right to equal protection.

In the 1995 Supreme Court case of Adarand v. Pena, the court stopped the use of quotas in the granting of federal contracts. The Court cited that "past discrimination in an industry should not allow an unyielding racial quota." (167) It would give an advantage to minority owners of construction companies who were not directly the victims of discrimination. Opponents of affirmative action thought the policy might end entirely. However in 2003 the issue was upheld. The University of Michigan admission policies allowed a point system for undergraduate admission. Minority applicants were given twenty extra points, out of 150 possible points. It also allowed race, along with factors like work experience and extracurricular activities, to be considered in its law school admission process. The decision of the Supreme Court in Gratz v. Bollinger invalidated Michigan's undergraduate admissions policy because the point system gave a specific weight to race. However, by a 5-4 vote the court upheld the school's program, saying it was being used wisely and fostered Michigan's "compelling interest in obtaining the educational



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