Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003)
The use of an applicant's race as one factor in an admissions policy of a public educational institution does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if the policy is narrowly tailored to the compelling interest of promoting a diverse student body, and if it uses a holistic process to evaluate each applicant, as opposed to a quota system.
The University of Michigan Law School ("Law School") implemented in 1992 an admissions policy that gave applicants belonging to certain racial minority groups a greater chance of admission than students with similar credentials from other racial groups. The stated purpose of the policy was to promote racial diversity within the student body, which the Law School considered an important part of providing a strong education to its students.
In 1996, while this policy was in place, the Law School denied admission to applicant Barbara Grutter, a white Michigan resident, who subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the admissions policy. Grutter alleged that the policy constituted discrimination on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Grutter named Lee Bollinger, President of the University of Michigan at the time, as the defendant.
- Kirk O. Kolbo
- Maureen E. Mahoney
- Theodore B. Olson
- Sandra Day O'Connor (Author)
- John Paul Stevens
- David H. Souter
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Stephen G. Breyer
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Author)
- Stephen G. Breyer
- Antonin Scalia (Author)
- Clarence Thomas
- Clarence Thomas (Author)
- William Hubbs Rehnquist (Author)
- Antonin Scalia
- Anthony M. Kennedy
- Clarence Thomas
- Anthony M. Kennedy (Author)
OCTOBER TERM, 2002
GRUTTER v. BOLLINGER ET AL.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
No.02-241. Argued April 1, 2003-Decided June 23, 2003
The University of Michigan Law School (Law School), one of the Nation's top law schools, follows an official admissions policy that seeks to achieve student body diversity through compliance with Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265. Focusing on students' academic ability coupled with a flexible assessment of their talents, experiences, and potential, the policy requires admissions officials to evaluate each applicant based on all the information available in the file, including a personal statement, letters of recommendation, an essay describing how the applicant will contribute to Law School life and diversity, and the applicant's undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score. Additionally, officials must look beyond grades and scores to so-called "soft variables," such as recommenders' enthusiasm, the quality of the undergraduate institution and the applicant's essay, and the areas and difficulty of undergraduate course selection. The policy does not define diversity solely in terms of racial and ethnic status and does not restrict the types of diversity contributions eligible for "substantial weight," but it does reaffirm the Law School's commitment to diversity with special reference to the inclusion of African-American, Hispanic, and Native-American students, who otherwise might not be represented in the student body in meaningful numbers. By enrolling a "critical mass" of underrepresented minority students, the policy seeks to ensure their ability to contribute to the Law School's character and to the legal profession.
When the Law School denied admission to petitioner Grutter, a white Michigan resident with a 3.8 GPA and 161 LSAT score, she filed this suit, alleging that respondents had discriminated against her on the basis of race in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U. S. C. § 1981; that she was rejected because the Law School uses race as a "predominant" factor, giving applicants belonging to certain minority groups a significantly greater chance of admission than students with similar credentials from disfavored racial groups; and that respondents had no compelling interest to justify that use of race. The District Court found the Law School's use of race as an admissions factor unlawful. The Sixth Circuit reversed, holding that Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke was binding precedent establishing
diversity as a compelling state interest, and that the Law School's use of race was narrowly tailored because race was merely a "potential 'plus' factor" and because the Law School's program was virtually identical to the Harvard admissions program described approvingly by Justice Powell and appended to his Bakke opinion.
Held: The Law School's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause, Title VI, or § 1981. Pp. 322-344.
(a) In the landmark Bakke case, this Court reviewed a medical school's racial set-aside program that reserved 16 out of 100 seats for members of certain minority groups. The decision produced six separate opinions, none of which commanded a majority. Four Justices would have upheld the program on the ground that the government can use race to remedy disadvantages cast on minorities by past racial prejudice. 438 U. S., at 325. Four other Justices would have struck the program down on statutory grounds. Id., at 408. Justice Powell, announcing the Court's judgment, provided a fifth vote not only for invalidating the program, but also for reversing the state court's injunction against any use of race whatsoever. In a part of his opinion that was joined by no other Justice, Justice Powell expressed his view that attaining a diverse student body was the only interest asserted by the university that survived scrutiny. Id., at 311. Grounding his analysis in the academic freedom that "long has been viewed as a special concern of the First Amendment," id., at 312, 314, Justice Powell emphasized that the "'nation's future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure' to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this Nation." Id., at 313. However, he also emphasized that "[i]t is not an interest in simple ethnic diversity, in which a specified percentage of the student body is in effect guaranteed to be members of selected ethnic groups," that can justify using race. Id., at 315. Rather, "[t]he diversity that furthers a compelling state interest encompasses a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element." Ibid. Since Bakke, Justice Powell's opinion has been the touchstone for constitutional analysis of race-conscious admissions policies. Public and private universities across the Nation have modeled their own admissions programs on Justice Powell's views. Courts, however, have struggled to discern whether Justice Powell's diversity rationale is binding precedent. The Court finds it unnecessary to decide this issue because the Court endorses Justice Powell's view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest in the context of university admissions. Pp. 322-325.
(b) All government racial classifications must be analyzed by a reviewing court under strict scrutiny. Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200, 227. But not all such uses are invalidated by strict scrutiny. Race-based action necessary to further a compelling governmental interest does not violate the Equal Protection Clause so long as it is narrowly tailored to further that interest. E. g., Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U. S. 899, 908. Context matters when reviewing such action. See Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U. S. 339, 343-344. Not every decision influenced by race is equally objectionable, and strict scrutiny is designed to provide a framework for carefully examining the importance and the sincerity of the government's reasons for using race in a particular context. Pp. 326-327.
(c) The Court endorses Justice Powell's view that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify using race in university admissions. The Court defers to the Law School's educational judgment that diversity is essential to its educational mission. The Court's scrutiny of that interest is no less strict for taking into account complex educational judgments in an area that lies primarily within the university's expertise. See, e. g., Bakke, 438 U. S., at 319, n. 53 (opinion of Powell, J.). Attaining a diverse student body is at the heart of the Law School's proper institutional mission, and its "good faith" is "presumed" absent "a showing to the contrary." Id., at 318-319. Enrolling a "critical mass" of minority students simply to assure some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin would be patently unconstitutional. E.g., id., at 307. But the Law School defines its critical mass concept by reference to the substantial, important, and laudable educational benefits that diversity is designed to produce, including cross-racial understanding and the breaking down of racial stereotypes. The Law School's claim is further bolstered by numerous expert studies and reports showing that such diversity promotes learning outcomes and better prepares students for an increasingly diverse work force, for society, and for the legal profession. Major American businesses have made clear that the skills needed in today's increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints. High-ranking retired officers and civilian military leaders assert that a highly qualified, racially diverse officer corps is essential to national security. Moreover, because universities, and in particular, law schools, represent the training ground for a large number of the Nation's leaders, Sweatt v. Painter, 339 U. S. 629, 634, the path to leadership must be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity. Thus, the Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body. Pp. 327-333.
(d) The Law School's admissions program bears the hallmarks of a narrowly tailored plan. To be narrowly tailored, a race-conscious admissions program cannot "insulat[e] each category of applicants with certain desired qualifications from competition with all other applicants." Bakke, 438 U. S., at 315 (opinion of Powell, J.). Instead, it may consider race or ethnicity only as a "'plus' in a particular applicant's file"; i. e., it must be "flexible enough to consider all pertinent elements of diversity in light of the particular qualifications of each applicant, and to place them on the same footing for consideration, although not necessarily according them the same weight," id., at 317. It follows that universities cannot establish quotas for members of certain racial or ethnic groups or put them on separate admissions tracks. See id., at 315-316. The Law School's admissions program, like the Harvard plan approved by Justice Powell, satisfies these requirements. Moreover, the program is flexible enough to ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes race or ethnicity the defining feature of the application. See id., at 317. The Law School engages in a highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file, giving serious consideration to all the ways an applicant might contribute to a diverse educational environment. There is no policy, either de jure or de facto, of automatic acceptance or rejection based on any single "soft" variable. Gratz v. Bollinger, ante, p. 244, distinguished. Also, the program adequately ensures that all factors that may contribute to diversity are meaningfully considered alongside race. Moreover, the Law School frequently accepts nonminority applicants with grades and test scores lower than underrepresented minority applicants (and other nonminority applicants) who are rejected. The Court rejects the argument that the Law School should have used other race-neutral means to obtain the educational benefits of student body diversity, e.g., a lottery system or decreasing the emphasis on GPA and LSAT scores. N arrow tailoring does not require exhaustion of every conceivable race-neutral alternative or mandate that a university choose between maintaining a reputation for excellence or fulfilling a commitment to provide educational opportunities to members of all racial groups. See, e. g., Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267, 280, n. 6. The Court is satisfied that the Law School adequately considered the available alternatives. The Court is also satisfied that, in the context of individualized consideration of the possible diversity contributions of each applicant, the Law School's race-conscious admissions program does not unduly harm nonminority applicants. Finally, race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. The Court takes the Law School at its word that it would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial
preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today. Pp. 333-343.
(e) Because the Law School's use of race in admissions decisions is not prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause, petitioner's statutory claims based on Title VI and § 1981 also fail. See Bakke, supra, at 287 (opinion of Powell, J.); General Building Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 389-391. Pp. 343-344.
288 F.3d 732, affirmed.
O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEVENS, SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined, and in which SCALIA and THOMAS, JJ., joined in part insofar as it is consistent with the views expressed in Part VII of the opinion of THOMAS, J. GINSBURG, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which BREYER, J., joined, post, p. 344. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which THOMAS, J., joined, post, p. 346. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which SCALIA, J., joined as to Parts I-VII, post, p. 349. REHNQUIST, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SCALIA, KENNEDY, and THOMAS, JJ., joined, post, p. 378. KENNEDY, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 387.
"will not have been foreclosed from all consideration for that seat simply because he was not the right color or had the wrong surname . . . . His qualifications would have been weighed fairly and competitively, and he would have no basis to complain of unequal treatment under the Fourteenth Amendment." 438 U. S., at 318.We agree that, in the context of its individualized inquiry into the possible diversity contributions of all applicants, the Law School's race-conscious admissions program does not unduly harm nonminority applicants. We are mindful, however, that "[a] core purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to do away with all governmentally imposed discrimination based on race." Palmore v. Si-  doti, 466 U. S. 429, 432 (1984). Accordingly, race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time. This requirement reflects that racial classifications, however compelling their goals, are potentially so dangerous that they may be employed no more broadly than the interest demands. Enshrining a permanent justification for racial preferences would offend this fundamental equal protection principle. We see no reason to exempt race-conscious admissions programs from the requirement that all governmental use of race must have a logical end point. The Law School, too, concedes that all "race-conscious programs must have reasonable durationallimits." Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 32. In the context of higher education, the durational requirement can be met by sunset provisions in race-conscious admissions policies and periodic reviews to determine whether racial preferences are still necessary to achieve student body diversity. Universities in California, Florida, and Washington State, where racial preferences in admissions are prohibited by state law, are currently engaged in experimenting with a wide variety of alternative approaches. Universities in other States can and should draw on the most promising aspects of these race-neutral alternatives as they develop. Cf. United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S. 549, 581 (1995) (KENNEDY, J., concurring) ("[T]he States may perform their role as laboratories for experimentation to devise various solutions where the best solution is far from clear"). The requirement that all race-conscious admissions programs have a termination point "assure[s] all citizens that the deviation from the norm of equal treatment of all racial and ethnic groups is a temporary matter, a measure taken in the service of the goal of equality itself." Richmond v. J. A. Croson Co., 488 U. S., at 510 (plurality opinion); see also Nathanson & Bartnik, The Constitutionality of Preferential Treatment for Minority Applicants to Professional Schools,  58 Chicago Bar Rec. 282, 293 (May-June 1977) ("It would be a sad day indeed, were America to become a quota-ridden society, with each identifiable minority assigned proportional representation in every desirable walk of life. But that is not the rationale for programs of preferential treatment; the acid test of their justification will be their efficacy in eliminating the need for any racial or ethnic preferences at all"). We take the Law School at its word that it would "like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula" and will terminate its race-conscious admissions program as soon as practicable. See Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 34; Bakke, supra, at 317-318 (opinion of Powell, J.) (presuming good faith of university officials in the absence of a showing to the contrary). It has been 25 years since Justice Powell first approved the use of race to further an interest in student body diversity in the context of public higher education. Since that time, the number of minority applicants with high grades and test scores has indeed increased. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 43. We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today. IV In summary, the Equal Protection Clause does not prohibit the Law School's narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body. Consequently, petitioner's statutory claims based on Title VI and 42 U. S. C. § 1981 also fail. See Bakke, supra, at 287 (opinion of Powell, J.) ("Title VI . . . proscribe[s] only those racial classifications that would violate the Equal Protection Clause or the Fifth Amendment"); General Building Contractors Assn., Inc. v. Pennsylvania, 458 U. S. 375, 389-391 (1982) (the prohibition against discrimination in § 1981 is coextensive with the Equal Protection Clause). The judgment  of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, accordingly, is affirmed. It is so ordered. JUSTICE GINSBURG, with whom JUSTICE BREYER joins, concurring. The Court's observation that race-conscious programs "must have a logical end point," ante, at 342, accords with the international understanding of the office of affirmative action. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, ratified by the United States in 1994, see State Dept., Treaties in Force 422-423 (June 1996), endorses "special and concrete measures to ensure the adequate development and protection of certain racial groups or individuals belonging to them, for the purpose of guaranteeing them the full and equal enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms." Annex to G. A. Res. 2106, 20 U. N. GAOR, 20th Sess., Res. Supp. (No. 14), p. 47, U. N. Doc. A/6014, Art. 2(2) (1965). But such measures, the Convention instructs, "shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved." Ibid.; see also Art. 1(4) (similarly providing for temporally limited affirmative action); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Annex to G. A. Res. 34/180, 34 U. N. GAOR, 34th Sess., Res. Supp. (No. 46), p. 194, U. N. Doc. A/34/46, Art. 4(1) (1979) (authorizing "temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality" that "shall be discontinued when the objectives of equality of opportunity and treatment have been achieved"). The Court further observes that "[i]t has been 25 years since Justice Powell [in Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265 (1978)] first approved the use of race to further an interest in student body diversity in the context of public higher education." Ante, at 343. For at least part of that  time, however, the law could not fairly be described as "settled," and in some regions of the Nation, overtly race-conscious admissions policies have been proscribed. See Hopwood v. Texas, 78 F.3d 932 (CA5 1996); cf. Wessmann v. Gittens, 160 F.3d 790 (CA1 1998); Tuttle v. Arlington Cty. School Bd., 195 F.3d 698 (CA4 1999); Johnson v. Board of Regents of Univ. of Ga., 263 F.3d 1234 (CAll 2001). Moreover, it was only 25 years before Bakke that this Court declared public school segregation unconstitutional, a declaration that, after prolonged resistance, yielded an end to a law-enforced racial caste system, itself the legacy of centuries of slavery. See Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U. S. 483 (1954); cf. Cooper v. Aaron, 358 U. S. 1 (1958). It is well documented that conscious and unconscious race bias, even rank discrimination based on race, remain alive in our land, impeding realization of our highest values and ideals. See, e. g., Gratz v. Bollinger, ante, at 298-301 (GINSBURG, J., dissenting); Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200, 272-274 (1995) (GINSBURG, J., dissenting); Krieger, Civil Rights Perestroika: Intergroup Relations after Affirmative Action, 86 Calif. L. Rev. 1251, 1276-1291, 1303 (1998). As to public education, data for the years 20002001 show that 71.6% of African-American children and 76.3% of Hispanic children attended a school in which minorities made up a majority of the student body. See E. Frankenberg, C. Lee, & G. Orfield, A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream? p. 4 (Jan. 2003), http://www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu/research/reseg03/AreWeLosingtheDream.pdf (as visited June 16, 2003, and available in Clerk of Court's case file). And schools in predominantly minority communities lag far behind others measured by the educational resources available to them. See id., at 11; Brief for National Urban League et al. as Amici Curiae 11-12 (citing General Accounting Office, PerPupil Spending Differences Between Selected Inner City and Suburban Schools Varied by Metropolitan Area 17 (2002)).  However strong the public's desire for improved education systems may be, see P. Hart & R. Teeter, A National Priority: Americans Speak on Teacher Quality 2, 11 (2002) (public opinion research conducted for Educational Testing Service); No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Pub. L. 107-110, 115 Stat. 1806, 20 U. S. C. § 7231 (2000 ed., Supp. I), it remains the current reality that many minority students encounter markedly inadequate and unequal educational opportunities. Despite these inequalities, some minority students are able to meet the high threshold requirements set for admission to the country's finest undergraduate and graduate educational institutions. As lower school education in minority communities improves, an increase in the number of such students may be anticipated. From to day's vantage point, one may hope, but not firmly forecast, that over the next generation's span, progress toward nondiscrimination and genuinely equal opportunity will make it safe to sunset affirmative action.[Footnote *] JUSTICE SCALIA, with whom JUSTICE THOMAS joins, concurring in part and dissenting in part. I join the opinion of THE CHIEF JUSTICE. As he demonstrates, the University of Michigan Law School's mystical  "critical mass" justification for its discrimination by race challenges even the most gullible mind. The admissions statistics show it to be a sham to cover a scheme of racially proportionate admissions. I also join Parts I through VII of JUSTICE THOMAS'S opinion.[Footnote *] I find particularly unanswerable his central point: that the allegedly "compelling state interest" at issue here is not the incremental "educational benefit" that emanates from the fabled "critical mass" of minority students, but rather Michigan's interest in maintaining a "prestige" law school whose normal admissions standards disproportionately exclude blacks and other minorities. If that is a compelling state interest, everything is. I add the following: The "educational benefit" that the University of Michigan seeks to achieve by racial discrimination consists, according to the Court, of" 'cross-racial understanding,'" ante, at 330, and" 'better prepar[ation of] students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society,'" ibid., all of which is necessary not only for work, but also for good "citizenship," ante, at 331. This is not, of course, an "educational benefit" on which students will be graded on their law school transcript (Works and Plays Well with Others: B+) or tested by the bar examiners (Q: Describe in 500 words or less your cross-racial understanding). For it is a lesson of life rather than law-essentially the same lesson taught to (or rather learned by, for it cannot be "taught" in the usual sense) people three feet shorter and 20 years younger than the fullgrown adults at the University of Michigan Law School, in institutions ranging from Boy Scout troops to public-school kindergartens. If properly considered an "educational benefit" at all, it is surely not one that is either uniquely relevant to law school or uniquely "teachable" in a formal educational setting. And therefore: If it is appropriate for the Univer-  sity of Michigan Law School to use racial discrimination for the purpose of putting together a "critical mass" that will convey generic lessons in socialization and good citizenship, surely it is no less appropriate-indeed, particularly appropriate-for the civil service system of the State of Michigan to do so. There, also, those exposed to "critical masses" of certain races will presumably become better Americans, better Michiganders, better civil servants. And surely private employers cannot be criticized--indeed, should be praised--if they also "teach" good citizenship to their adult employees through a patriotic, all-American system of racial discrimination in hiring. The nonminority individuals who are deprived of a legal education, a civil service job, or any job at all by reason of their skin color will surely understand. Unlike a clear constitutional holding that racial preferences in state educational institutions are impermissible, or even a clear anticonstitutional holding that racial preferences in state educational institutions are OK, today's Grutter-Gratz split double header seems perversely designed to prolong the controversy and the litigation. Some future lawsuits will presumably focus on whether the discriminatory scheme in question contains enough evaluation of the applicant "as an individual," ante, at 337, and sufficiently avoids "separate admissions tracks," ante, at 334, to fall under Grutter rather than Gratz. Some will focus on whether a university has gone beyond the bounds of a "'good-faith effort'" and has so zealously pursued its "critical mass" as to make it an unconstitutional de facto quota system, rather than merely "'a permissible goal.' " Ante, at 335 (quoting Sheet Metal Workers v. EEOC, 478 U. S. 421, 495 (1986) (O'CONNOR, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part)). Other lawsuits may focus on whether, in the particular setting at issue, any educational benefits flow from racial diversity. (That issue was not contested in Grutter; and while the opinion accords "a degree of deference to a university's academic decisions," ante, at 328, "deference does not imply  abandonment or abdication of judicial review," Miller-El v. Cockrell, 537 U. S. 322, 340 (2003).) Still other suits may challenge the bona fides of the institution's expressed commitment to the educational benefits of diversity that immunize the discriminatory scheme in Grutter. (Tempting targets, one would suppose, will be those universities that talk the talk of multiculturalism and racial diversity in the courts but walk the walk of tribalism and racial segregation on their campuses-through minority-only student organizations, separate minority housing opportunities, separate minority student centers, even separate minority-only graduation ceremonies.) And still other suits may claim that the institution's racial preferences have gone below or above the mystical Grutter-approved "critical mass." Finally, litigation can be expected on behalf of minority groups intentionally short changed in the institution's composition of its generic minority "critical mass." I do not look forward to any of these cases. The Constitution proscribes government discrimination on the basis of race, and state-provided education is no exception. JUSTICE THOMAS, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA joins as to Parts I-VII, concurring in part and dissenting in part. Frederick Douglass, speaking to a group of abolitionists almost 140 years ago, delivered a message lost on to day's majority:
"[I]n regard to the colored people, there is always more that is benevolent, I perceive, than just, manifested towards us. What I ask for the negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. The American people have always been anxious to know what they shall do with us . . . . I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of
their own strength, if they are worm-eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! . . . And if the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone! . . . [Y]our interference is doing him positive injury." What the Black Man Wants: An Address Delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on 26 January 1865, reprinted in 4 The Frederick Douglass Papers 59, 68 (J. Blassingame & J. McKivigan eds. 1991) (emphasis in original).Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators. Because I wish to see all students succeed whatever their color, I share, in some respect, the sympathies of those who sponsor the type of discrimination advanced by the University of Michigan Law School (Law School). The Constitution does not, however, tolerate institutional devotion to the status quo in admissions policies when such devotion ripens into racial discrimination. Nor does the Constitution countenance the unprecedented deference the Court gives to the Law School, an approach inconsistent with the very concept of "strict scrutiny." No one would argue that a university could set up a lower general admissions standard and then impose heightened requirements only on black applicants. Similarly, a university may not maintain a high admissions standard and grant exemptions to favored races. The Law School, of its own choosing, and for its own purposes, maintains an exclusionary admissions system that it knows produces racially disproportionate results. Racial discrimination is not a permissible solution to the self-inflicted wounds of this elitist admissions policy. The majority upholds the Law School's racial discrimination not by interpreting the people's Constitution, but by responding to a faddish slogan of the cognoscenti. Nevertheless, I concur in part in the Court's opinion. First, I agree with the Court insofar as its decision, which approves of only  one racial classification, confirms that further use of race in admissions remains unlawful. Second, I agree with the Court's holding that racial discrimination in higher education admissions will be illegal in 25 years. See ante, at 343 (stating that racial discrimination will no longer be narrowly tailored, or "necessary to further" a compelling state interest, in 25 years). I respectfully dissent from the remainder of the Court's opinion and the judgment, however, because I believe that the Law School's current use of race violates the Equal Protection Clause and that the Constitution means the same thing today as it will in 300 months. I The majority agrees that the Law School's racial discrimination should be subjected to strict scrutiny. Ante, at 326. Before applying that standard to this case, I will briefly revisit the Court's treatment of racial classifications. The strict scrutiny standard that the Court purports to apply in this case was first enunciated in Korematsu v. United States, 323 U. S. 214 (1944). There the Court held that "[p]ressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of [racial discrimination]; racial antagonism never can." Id., at 216. This standard of "pressing public necessity" has more frequently been termed "compelling governmental interest,"[Footnote 1] see, e. g., Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265, 299 (1978) (opinion of Powell, J.). A majority of the Court has validated only two circumstances where "pressing public necessity" or a "compelling state interest" can possibly justify racial discrimination by state actors. First, the lesson of Korematsu is that national security constitutes a "pressing public necessity," though the government's use of race to advance that objective must be narrowly tailored. Second, the Court has recognized as a compelling state interest a government's effort to remedy  past discrimination for which it is responsible. Richmond The contours of "pressing public necessity" can be further discerned from those interests the Court has rejected as bases for racial discrimination. For example, Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267 (1986), found unconstitutional a collective-bargaining agreement between a school board and a teachers' union that favored certain minority races. The school board defended the policy on the grounds that minority teachers provided "role models" for minority students and that a racially "diverse" faculty would improve the education of all students. See Brief for Respondents, O. T. 1984, No. 84-1340, pp. 27-28; 476 U. S., at 315 (STEVENS, J., dissenting) ("[A]n integrated faculty will be able to provide benefits to the student body that could not be provided by an all-white, or nearly all-white, faculty"). Nevertheless, the Court found that the use of race violated the Equal Protection Clause, deeming both asserted state interests insufficiently compelling. Id., at 275-276 (plurality opinion); id., at 295 (White, J., concurring in judgment) ("None of the interests asserted by the [school board] . . . justify this racially discriminatory layoff policy").[Footnote 2] An even greater governmental interest involves the sensitive role of courts in child custody determinations. In Palmore v. Sidoti, 466 U. S. 429 (1984), the Court held that even the best interests of a child did not constitute a compelling state interest that would allow a state court to award custody to the father because the mother was in a mixed-race marriage. Id., at 433 (finding the interest "substantial" but  holding the custody decision could not be based on the race of the mother's new husband). Finally, the Court has rejected an interest in remedying general societal discrimination as a justification for race discrimination. See Wygant, supra, at 276 (plurality opinion); Croson, 488 U. S., at 496-498 (plurality opinion); id., at 520-521 (SCALIA, J., concurring in judgment). "Societal discrimination, without more, is too amorphous a basis for imposing a racially classified remedy" because a "court could uphold remedies that are ageless in their reach into the past, and timeless in their ability to affect the future." Wygant, supra, at 276 (plurality opinion). But see Gratz v. Bollinger, ante, p. 298 (GINSBURG, J., dissenting). Where the Court has accepted only national security, and rejected even the best interests of a child, as a justification for racial discrimination, I conclude that only those measures the State must take to provide a bulwark against anarchy, or to prevent violence, will constitute a "pressing public necessity." Cf. Lee v. Washington, 390 U. S. 333, 334 (1968) (per curiam) (Black, J., concurring) (indicating that protecting prisoners from violence might justify narrowly tailored racial discrimination); Croson, supra, at 521 (SCALIA, J., concurring in judgment) ("At least where state or local action is at issue, only a social emergency rising to the level of imminent danger to life and limb . . . can justify [racial discrimination]"). The Constitution abhors classifications based on race, not only because those classifications can harm favored races or are based on illegitimate motives, but also because every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all. "Purchased at the price of immeasurable human suffering, the equal protection principle reflects our Nation's understanding that such classifications ultimately have a destructive impact on the individual and our society."  Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200, 240 (1995) (THOMAS, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). II Unlike the majority, I seek to define with precision the interest being asserted by the Law School before determining whether that interest is so compelling as to justify racial discrimination. The Law School maintains that it wishes to obtain "educational benefits that flow from student body diversity," Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 14. This statement must be evaluated carefully, because it implies that both "diversity" and "educational benefits" are components of the Law School's compelling state interest. Additionally, the Law School's refusal to entertain certain changes in its admissions process and status indicates that the compelling state interest it seeks to validate is actually broader than might appear at first glance. Undoubtedly there are other ways to "better" the education of law students aside from ensuring that the student body contains a "critical mass" of underrepresented minority students. Attaining "diversity," whatever it means,[Footnote 3] is the  mechanism by which the Law School obtains educational benefits, not an end of itself. The Law School, however, apparently believes that only a racially mixed student body can lead to the educational benefits it seeks. How, then, is the Law School's interest in these allegedly unique educational "benefits" not simply the forbidden interest in "racial balancing," ante, at 330, that the majority expressly rejects? A distinction between these two ideas (unique educational benefits based on racial aesthetics and race for its own sake) is purely sophistic-so much so that the majority uses them interchangeably. Compare ante, at 328 ("[T]he Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body"), with ante, at 333 (referring to the "compelling interest in securing the educational benefits of a diverse student body" (emphasis added)). The Law School's argument, as facile as it is, can only be understood in one way: Classroom aesthetics yields educational benefits, racially discriminatory admissions policies are required to achieve the right racial mix, and therefore the policies are required to achieve the educational benefits. It is the educational benefits that are the end, or allegedly compelling state interest, not "diversity." But see ante, at 332 (citing the need for "openness and integrity of the educational institutions that provide [legal] training" without reference to any consequential educational benefits). One must also consider the Law School's refusal to entertain changes to its current admissions system that might produce the same educational benefits. The Law School adamantly disclaims any race-neutral alternative that would reduce "academic selectivity," which would in turn "require the Law School to become a very different institution, and to sacrifice a core part of its educational mission." Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 33-36. In other words, the Law School seeks to improve marginally the education it offers  without sacrificing too much of its exclusivity and elite status.[Footnote 4] The proffered interest that the majority vindicates today, then, is not simply "diversity." Instead the Court upholds the use of racial discrimination as a tool to advance the Law School's interest in offering a marginally superior education while maintaining an elite institution. Unless each constituent part of this state interest is of pressing public necessity, the Law School's use of race is unconstitutional. I find each of them to fall far short of this standard. III A A close reading of the Court's opinion reveals that all of its legal work is done through one conclusory statement: The Law School has a "compelling interest in securing the educational benefits of a diverse student body." Ante, at 333. No serious effort is made to explain how these benefits fit with the state interests the Court has recognized (or rejected) as compelling, see Part I, supra, or to place any theoretical constraints on an enterprising court's desire to discover still more justifications for racial discrimination. In the absence of any explanation, one might expect the Court to fall back on the judicial policy of stare decisis. But the Court eschews even this weak defense of its holding, shunning an analysis of the extent to which Justice Powell's opinion in Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265 (1978),  is binding, ante, at 325, in favor of an unfounded wholesale adoption of it. Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke and the Court's decision today rest on the fundamentally flawed proposition that racial discrimination can be contextualized so that a goal, such as classroom aesthetics, can be compelling in one context but not in another. This "we know it when we see it" approach to evaluating state interests is not capable of judicial application. Today, the Court insists on radically expanding the range of permissible uses of race to something as trivial (by comparison) as the assembling of a law school class. I can only presume that the majority's failure to justify its decision by reference to any principle arises from the absence of any such principle. See Part VI, infra. B Under the proper standard, there is no pressing public necessity in maintaining a public law school at all and, it follows, certainly not an elite law school. Likewise, marginal improvements in legal education do not qualify as a compelling state interest. 1 While legal education at a public university may be good policy or otherwise laudable, it is obviously not a pressing public necessity when the correct legal standard is applied. Additionally, circumstantial evidence as to whether a state activity is of pressing public necessity can be obtained by asking whether all States feel compelled to engage in that activity. Evidence that States, in general, engage in a certain activity by no means demonstrates that the activity constitutes a pressing public necessity, given the expansive role of government in to day's society. The fact that some fraction of the States reject a particular enterprise, however, creates a presumption that the enterprise itself is not a compelling state interest. In this sense, the absence of a public, American Bar Association (ABA) accredited, law school in  Alaska, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, see ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABAApproved Law Schools (w. Margolis, B. Gordon, J. Puskarz, & D. Rosenlieb eds. 2004) (hereinafter ABA-LSAC Guide), provides further evidence that Michigan's maintenance of the Law School does not constitute a compelling state interest. 2 As the foregoing makes clear, Michigan has no compelling interest in having a law school at all, much less an elite one. Still, even assuming that a State may, under appropriate circumstances, demonstrate a cognizable interest in having an elite law school, Michigan has failed to do so here. This Court has limited the scope of equal protection review to interests and activities that occur within that State's jurisdiction. The Court held in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada, 305 U. S. 337 (1938), that Missouri could not satisfy the demands of "separate but equal" by paying for legal training of blacks at neighboring state law schools, while maintaining a segregated law school within the State. The equal protection
"obligation is imposed by the Constitution upon the States severally as governmental entities,-each responsible for its own laws establishing the rights and duties of persons within its borders. It is an obligation the burden of which cannot be cast by one State upon another, and no State can be excused from performance by what another State may do or fail to do. That separate responsibility of each State within its own sphere is of the essence of statehood maintained under our dual system." Id., at 350 (emphasis added).The Equal Protection Clause, as interpreted by the Court in Gaines, does not permit States to justify racial discrimination on the basis of what the rest of the Nation "may do or fail to do." The only interests that can satisfy the Equal  Protection Clause's demands are those found within a State's jurisdiction. The only cognizable state interests vindicated by operating a public law school are, therefore, the education of that State's citizens and the training of that State's lawyers. James Campbell's address at the opening of the Law Department at the University of Michigan on October 3, 1859, makes this clear:
"It not only concerns the State that every one should have all reasonable facilities for preparing himself for any honest position in life to which he may aspire, but it also concerns the community that the Law should be taught and understood . . . . There is not an office in the State in which serious legal inquiries may not frequently arise . . . . In all these matters, public and private rights are constantly involved and discussed, and ignorance of the Law has frequently led to results deplorable and alarming . . . . [I]n the history of this State, in more than one instance, that ignorance has led to unlawful violence, and the shedding of innocent blood." E. Brown, Legal Education at Michigan 1859-1959, pp. 404-406 (1959) (emphasis added).The Law School today, however, does precious little training of those attorneys who will serve the citizens of Michigan. In 2002, graduates of the Law School made up less than 6% of applicants to the Michigan bar, Michigan Lawyers Weekly, available at http://www.michiganlawyersweekly.com/barpassers0202.cfm,barpassers0702.cfm (all Internet materials as visited June 13, 2003, and available in Clerk of Court's case file), even though the Law School's graduates constitute nearly 30% of all law students graduating in Michigan. Ibid. Less than 16% of the Law School's graduating class elects to stay in Michigan after law school. ABA-LSAC Guide 427. Thus, while a mere 27% of the Law School's 2002 entering class is from Michigan, see University of  Michigan Law School Website, available at http://www.law.umich.edu/prospectivestudents/Admissions/index.htm, only half of these, it appears, will stay in Michigan. In sum, the Law School trains few Michigan residents and overwhelmingly serves students, who, as lawyers, leave the State of Michigan. By contrast, Michigan's other public law school, Wayne State University Law School, sends 88% of its graduates on to serve the people of Michigan. ABA-LSAC Guide 775. It does not take a social scientist to conclude that it is precisely the Law School's status as an elite institution that causes it to be a waystation for the rest of the country's lawyers, rather than a training ground for those who will remain in Michigan. The Law School's decision to be an elite institution does little to advance the welfare of the people of Michigan or any cognizable interest of the State of Michigan. Again, the fact that few States choose to maintain elite law schools raises a strong inference that there is nothing compelling about elite status. Arguably, only the public law schools of the University of Texas, the University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), and the University of Virginia maintain the same reputation for excellence as the Law School.[Footnote 5] Two of these States, Texas and California, are so large that they could reasonably be expected to provide elite legal training at a separate law school to students who will, in fact, stay in the State and provide legal services to its citizens. And these two schools far outshine the Law School in producing in-state lawyers. The University of Texas, for example, sends over three-fourths of its graduates on to work in the State of Texas, vindicating the State's interest (compelling or not) in training Texas' lawyers. Id., at 691.  3 Finally, even if the Law School's racial tinkering produces tangible educational benefits, a marginal improvement in legal education cannot justify racial discrimination where the Law School has no compelling interest either in its existence or in its current educational and admissions policies. IV The interest in remaining elite and exclusive that the majority thinks so obviously critical requires the use of admissions "standards" that, in turn, create the Law School's "need" to discriminate on the basis of race. The Court validates these admissions standards by concluding that alternatives that would require "a dramatic sacrifice of . . . the academic quality of all admitted students," ante, at 340, need not be considered before racial discrimination can be employed.[Footnote 6] In the majority's view, such methods are not required by the "narrow tailoring" prong of strict scrutiny because that inquiry demands, in this context, that any race-neutral alternative work "'about as well.'" Ante, at 339 (quoting Wygant, 476 U. S., at 280, n. 6). The majority errs, however, because race-neutral alternatives must only be "workable," ante, at 339, and do "about as well" in vindicating the compelling state interest. The Court never explicitly holds that the Law School's desire to retain the status quo in "academic selectivity" is itself a compelling state interest, and, as I have demonstrated, it is not. See Part III-B, supra. Therefore, the Law School should be forced to choose between its classroom aesthetic and its exclusionary admissions system-it cannot have it both ways. With the adoption of different admissions methods, such as accepting all students who meet minimum qualifications,  see Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae 13-14, the Law School could achieve its vision of the racially aesthetic student body without the use of racial discrimination. The Law School concedes this, but the Court holds, implicitly and under the guise of narrow tailoring, that the Law School has a compelling state interest in doing what it wants to do. I cannot agree. First, under strict scrutiny, the Law School's assessment of the benefits of racial discrimination and devotion to the admissions status quo are not entitled to any sort of deference, grounded in the First Amendment or anywhere else. Second, even if its "academic selectivity" must be maintained at all costs along with racial discrimination, the Court ignores the fact that other top law schools have succeeded in meeting their aesthetic demands without racial discrimination. A The Court bases its unprecedented deference to the Law School-a deference antithetical to strict scrutiny-on an idea of "educational autonomy" grounded in the First Amendment. Ante, at 329. In my view, there is no basis for a right of public universities to do what would otherwise violate the Equal Protection Clause. The constitutionalization of "academic freedom" began with the concurring opinion of Justice Frankfurter in Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U. S. 234 (1957). Sweezy, a Marxist economist, was investigated by the Attorney General of New Hampshire on suspicion of being a subversive. The prosecution sought, inter alia, the contents of a lecture Sweezy had given at the University of New Hampshire. The Court held that the investigation violated due process. Id., at 254. Justice Frankfurter went further, however, reasoning that the First Amendment created a right of academic freedom that prohibited the investigation. Id., at 256-267 (opinion concurring in result). Much of the rhetoric in Justice Frankfurter's opinion was devoted to the personal right of Sweezy to free speech. See, e.g., id., at 265 ("For a citizen to be  made to forego even a part of so basic a liberty as his political autonomy, the subordinating interest of the State must be compelling"). Still, claiming that the United States Reports "need not be burdened with proof," Justice Frankfurter also asserted that a "free society" depends on "free universities" and "[t]his means the exclusion of governmental intervention in the intellectual life of a university." Id., at 262. According to Justice Frankfurter: "It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail 'the four essential freedoms' of a university-to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study." Id., at 263 (citation omitted). In my view, "[i]t is the business" of this Court to explain itself when it cites provisions of the Constitution to invent new doctrines-including the idea that the First Amendment authorizes a public university to do what would otherwise violate the Equal Protection Clause. The majority fails in its summary effort to prove this point. The only source for the Court's conclusion that public universities are entitled to deference even within the confines of strict scrutiny is Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke. Justice Powell, for his part, relied only on Justice Frankfurter's opinion in Sweezy and the Court's decision in Keyishian v. Board of Regents of Univ. of State of N. Y., 385 U. S. 589 (1967), to support his view that the First Amendment somehow protected a public university's use of race in admissions. Bakke, 438 U. S., at 312. Keyishian provides no answer to the question whether the Fourteenth Amendment's restrictions are relaxed when applied to public universities. In that case, the Court held that state statutes and regulations designed to prevent the "appointment or retention of 'subversive' persons in state employment," 385 U. S., at 592, violated the First Amendment for vagueness. The statutes covered all public employees and were not invalidated only as applied to uni-  versity faculty members, although the Court appeared sympathetic to the notion of academic freedom, calling it a "special concern of the First Amendment." Id., at 603. Again, however, the Court did not relax any independent constitutional restrictions on public universities. I doubt that when Justice Frankfurter spoke of governmental intrusions into the independence of universities, he was thinking of the Constitution's ban on racial discrimination. The majority's broad deference to both the Law School's judgment that racial aesthetics leads to educational benefits and its stubborn refusal to alter the status quo in admissions methods finds no basis in the Constitution or decisions of this Court. B 1 The Court's deference to the Law School's conclusion that its racial experimentation leads to educational benefits will, if adhered to, have serious collateral consequences. The Court relies heavily on social science evidence to justify its deference. See ante, at 330-332; but see also Rothman, Lipset, & Nevitte, Racial Diversity Reconsidered, 151 Public Interest 25 (2003) (finding that the racial mix of a student body produced by racial discrimination of the type practiced by the Law School in fact hinders students' perception of academic quality). The Court never acknowledges, however, the growing evidence that racial (and other sorts) of heterogeneity actually impairs learning among black students. See, e.g., Flowers & Pascarella, Cognitive Effects of College Racial Composition on African American Students After 3 Years of College, 40 J. of College Student Development 669, 674 (1999) (concluding that black students experience superior cognitive development at Historically Black Colleges (HBCs) and that, even among blacks, "a substantial diversity moderates the cognitive effects of attending an HBC"); Allen, The Color of Success: African-American College Stu-  dent Outcomes at Predominantly White and Historically Black Public Colleges and Universities, 62 Harv. Educ. Rev. 26, 35 (1992) (finding that black students attending HBCs report higher academic achievement than those attending predominantly white colleges). At oral argument in Gratz v. Bollinger, ante, p. 244, counsel for respondents stated that "most every single one of [the HBCs] do have diverse student bodies." Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 02-516, p. 52. What precisely counsel meant by "diverse" is indeterminate, but it is reported that in 2000 at Morehouse College, one of the most distinguished HBCs in the Nation, only 0.1% of the student body was white, and only 0.2% was Hispanic. College Admissions Data Handbook 2002-2003, p. 613 (43d ed. 2002) (hereinafter College Admissions Data Handbook). And at Mississippi Valley State University, a public HBC, only 1.1% of the freshman class in 2001 was white. Id., at 603. If there is a "critical mass" of whites at these institutions, then "critical mass" is indeed a very small proportion. The majority grants deference to the Law School's "assessment that diversity will, in fact, yield educational benefits," ante, at 328. It follows, therefore, that an HBC's assessment that racial homogeneity will yield educational benefits would similarly be given deference.[Footnote 7] An HBC's rejection of white applicants in order to maintain racial homogeneity seems permissible, therefore, under the majority's view of the Equal Protection Clause. But see United States v. Fordice, 505 U. S. 717, 748 (1992) (THOMAS, J., concurring) ("Obviously, a State cannot maintain . . . traditions by closing particular institutions, historically white or historically black, to particular racial groups"). Contained within today's majority opinion is the seed of a new constitutional  justification for a concept I thought long and rightly rejected-racial segregation. 2 Moreover one would think, in light of the Court's decision in United States v. Virginia, 518 U. S. 515 (1996), that before being given license to use racial discrimination, the Law School would be required to radically reshape its admissions process, even to the point of sacrificing some elements of its character. In Virginia, a majority of the Court, without a word about academic freedom, accepted the all-male Virginia Military Institute's (VMI) representation that some changes in its "adversative" method of education would be required with the admission of women, id., at 540, but did not defer to VMI's judgment that these changes would be too great. Instead, the Court concluded that they were "manageable." Id., at 551, n. 19. That case involved sex discrimination, which is subjected to intermediate, not strict, scrutiny. Id., at 533; Craig v. Boren, 429 U. S. 190, 197 (1976). So in Virginia, where the standard of review dictated that greater flexibility be granted to VMI's educational policies than the Law School deserves here, this Court gave no deference. Apparently where the status quo being defended is that of the elite establishment-here the Law School-rather than a less fashionable Southern military institution, the Court will defer without serious inquiry and without regard to the applicable legal standard. C Virginia is also notable for the fact that the Court relied on the "experience" of formerly single-sex institutions, such as the service academies, to conclude that admission of women to VMI would be "manageable." 518 U. S., at 544545. Today, however, the majority ignores the "experience" of those institutions that have been forced to abandon explicit racial discrimination in admissions.  The sky has not fallen at Boalt Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, for example. Prior to Proposition 209's adoption of Cal. Const., Art. 1, § 31(a), which bars the State from "grant[ing] preferential treatment . . . on the basis of race . . . in the operation of . . . public education,"[Footnote 8] Boalt Hall enrolled 20 blacks and 28 Hispanics in its first-year class for 1996. In 2002, without deploying express racial discrimination in admissions, Boalt's entering class enrolled 14 blacks and 36 Hispanics.[Footnote 9] University of California Law and Medical School Enrollments, available at http://www.ucop.edu/acadadv/datamgmt/lawmed/law-enrolls-eth2.html. Total underrepresented minority student enrollment at Boalt Hall now exceeds 1996 levels. Apparently the Law School cannot be counted on to be as resourceful. The Court is willfully blind to the very real experience in California and elsewhere, which raises the inference that institutions with "reputation[s] for excellence," ante, at 339, rivaling the Law School's have satisfied their sense of mission without resorting to prohibited racial discrimination. V Putting aside the absence of any legal support for the majority's reflexive deference, there is much to be said for the view that the use of tests and other measures to "predict" academic performance is a poor substitute for a system that gives every applicant a chance to prove he can succeed in the study of law. The rallying cry that in the absence of racial discrimination in admissions there would be a true  meritocracy ignores the fact that the entire process is poisoned by numerous exceptions to "merit." For example, in the national debate on racial discrimination in higher education admissions, much has been made of the fact that elite institutions utilize a so-called "legacy" preference to give the children of alumni an advantage in admissions. This, and other, exceptions to a "true" meritocracy give the lie to protestations that merit admissions are in fact the order of the day at the Nation's universities. The Equal Protection Clause does not, however, prohibit the use of unseemly legacy preferences or many other kinds of arbitrary admissions procedures. What the Equal Protection Clause does prohibit are classifications made on the basis of race. So while legacy preferences can stand under the Constitution, racial discrimination cannot.[Footnote 10] I will not twist the Constitution to invalidate legacy preferences or otherwise impose my vision of higher education admissions on the Nation. The majority should similarly stay its impulse to validate faddish racial discrimination the Constitution clearly forbids. In any event, there is nothing ancient, honorable, or constitutionally protected about "selective" admissions. The University of Michigan should be well aware that alternative methods have historically been used for the admission of students, for it brought to this country the German certificate system in the late-19th century. See H. Wechsler, The Qualified Student 16-39 (1977) (hereinafter Qualified Student). Under this system, a secondary school was certified by a university so that any graduate who completed the course offered by the school was offered admission to the university. The certification regime supplemented, and later virtually replaced (at least in the Midwest), the prior regime of rigor-  ous subject-matter entrance examinations. Id., at 57-58. The facially race-neutral "percent plans" now used in Texas, California, and Florida, see ante, at 340, are in many ways the descendents of the certificate system. Certification was replaced by selective admissions in the beginning of the 20th century, as universities sought to exercise more control over the composition of their student bodies. Since its inception, selective admissions has been the vehicle for racial, ethnic, and religious tinkering and experimentation by university administrators. The initial driving force for the relocation of the selective function from the high school to the universities was the same desire to select racial winners and losers that the Law School exhibits today. Columbia, Harvard, and others infamously determined that they had "too many" Jews, just as today the Law School argues it would have "too many" whites if it could not discriminate in its admissions process. See Qualified Student 155-168 (Columbia); H. Broun & G. Britt, Christians Only: A Study in Prejudice 53-54 (1931) (Harvard). Columbia employed intelligence tests precisely because Jewish applicants, who were predominantly immigrants, scored worse on such tests. Thus, Columbia could claim (falsely) that" '[w]e have not eliminated boys because they were Jews and do not propose to do so. We have honestly attempted to eliminate the lowest grade of applicant [through the use of intelligence testing] and it turns out that a good many of the low grade men are New York City Jews.''' Letter from Herbert E. Hawkes, dean of Columbia College, to E. B. Wilson, June 16, 1922 (reprinted in Qualified Student 160-161). In other words, the tests were adopted with full knowledge of their disparate impact. Cf. DeFunis v. Odegaard, 416 U. S. 312, 335 (1974) (per curiam) (Douglas, J., dissenting). Similarly no modern law school can claim ignorance of the poor performance of blacks, relatively speaking, on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). Nevertheless, law schools  continue to use the test and then attempt to "correct" for black underperformance by using racial discrimination in admissions so as to obtain their aesthetic student body. The Law School's continued adherence to measures it knows produce racially skewed results is not entitled to deference by this Court. See Part IV; supra. The Law School itself admits that the test is imperfect, as it must, given that it regularly admits students who score at or below 150 (the national median) on the test. See App. 156-203 (showing that, between 1995 and 2000, the Law School admitted 37 students-27 of whom were black; 31 of whom were "underrepresented minorities"-with LSAT scores of 150 or lower). And the Law School's amici cannot seem to agree on the fundamental question whether the test itself is useful. Compare Brief for Law School Admission Council as Amicus Curiae 12 ("LSAT scores . . . are an effective predictor of students' performance in law school") with Brief for Harvard Black Law Students Association et al. as Amici Curiae 27 ("Whether [the LSAT] measure[s] objective merit . . . is certainly questionable"). Having decided to use the LSAT, the Law School must accept the constitutional burdens that come with this decision. The Law School may freely continue to employ the LSAT and other allegedly merit-based standards in whatever fashion it likes. What the Equal Protection Clause forbids, but the Court today allows, is the use of these standards hand-in-hand with racial discrimination. An infinite variety of admissions methods are available to the Law School. Considering all of the radical thinking that has historically occurred at this country's universities, the Law School's intractable approach toward admissions is striking. The Court will not even deign to make the Law School try other methods, however, preferring instead to grant a 25-year license to violate the Constitution. And the same Court that had the courage to order the desegregation of all public schools in the South now fears, on the basis of plati-  tudes rather than principle, to force the Law School to abandon a decidedly imperfect admissions regime that provides the basis for racial discrimination. VI The absence of any articulated legal principle supporting the majority's principal holding suggests another rationale. I believe what lies beneath the Court's decision today are the benighted notions that one can tell when racial discrimination benefits (rather than hurts) minority groups, see Adarand, 515 U. S., at 239 (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment), and that racial discrimination is necessary to remedy general societal ills. This Court's precedents supposedly settled both issues, but clearly the majority still cannot commit to the principle that racial classifications are per se harmful and that almost no amount of benefit in the eye of the beholder can justify such classifications. Putting aside what I take to be the Court's implicit rejection of Adarand's holding that beneficial and burdensome racial classifications are equally invalid, I must contest the notion that the Law School's discrimination benefits those admitted as a result of it. The Court spends considerable time discussing the impressive display of amicus support for the Law School in this case from all corners of society. Ante, at 330-331. But nowhere in any of the filings in this Court is any evidence that the purported "beneficiaries" of this racial discrimination prove themselves by performing at (or even near) the same level as those students who receive no preferences. Cf. Thernstrom & Thernstrom, Reflections on the Shape of the River, 46 UCLA L. Rev. 1583, 1605-1608 (1999) (discussing the failure of defenders of racial discrimination in admissions to consider the fact that its "beneficiaries" are underperforming in the classroom). The silence in this case is deafening to those of us who view higher education's purpose as imparting knowledge and skills to students, rather than a communal, rubber-stamp,  credentialing process. The Law School is not looking for those students who, despite a lower LSAT score or undergraduate grade point average, will succeed in the study of law. The Law School seeks only a facade-it is sufficient that the class looks right, even if it does not perform right. The Law School tantalizes unprepared students with the promise of a University of Michigan degree and all of the opportunities that it offers. These overmatched students take the bait, only to find that they cannot succeed in the cauldron of competition. And this mismatch crisis is not restricted to elite institutions. See T. Sowell, Race and Culture 176-177 (1994) ("Even if most minority students are able to meet the normal standards at the 'average' range of colleges and universities, the systematic mismatching of minority students begun at the top can mean that such students are generally overmatched throughout all levels of higher education"). Indeed, to cover the tracks of the aestheticists, this cruel farce of racial discrimination must continuein selection for the Michigan Law Review, see University of Michigan Law School Student Handbook 2002-2003, pp. 39-40 (noting the presence of a "diversity plan" for admission to the review), and in hiring at law firms and for judicial clerks hips-until the "beneficiaries" are no longer tolerated. While these students may graduate with law degrees, there is no evidence that they have received a qualitatively better legal education (or become better lawyers) than if they had gone to a less "elite" law school for which they were better prepared. And the aestheticists will never address the real problems facing "underrepresented minorities,"[Footnote 11] instead continuing their social experiments on other people's children.  Beyond the harm the Law School's racial discrimination visits upon its test subjects, no social science has disproved the notion that this discrimination "engender[s] attitudes of superiority or, alternatively, provoke[s] resentment among those who believe that they have been wronged by the government's use of race." Adarand, 515 U. S., at 241 (THOMAS, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). "These programs stamp minorities with a badge of inferiority and may cause them to develop dependencies or to adopt an attitude that they are 'entitled' to preferences." Ibid. It is uncontested that each year, the Law School admits a handful of blacks who would be admitted in the absence of racial discrimination. See Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 6. Who can differentiate between those who belong and those who do not? The majority of blacks are admitted to the Law School because of discrimination, and because of this policy all are tarred as undeserving. This problem of stigma does not depend on determinacy as to whether those stigmatized are actually the "beneficiaries" of racial discrimination. When blacks take positions in the highest places of government, industry, or academia, it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement. The question itself is the stigma-because either racial discrimination did playa role, in which case the person may be deemed "otherwise unqualified," or it did not, in which case asking the question itself unfairly marks those blacks who would succeed without discrimination. Is this what the Court means by "visibly open"? Ante, at 332. Finally, the Court's disturbing reference to the importance of the country's law schools as training grounds meant to cultivate "a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry," ibid., through the use of racial discrimination deserves discussion. As noted earlier, the Court has soundly  rejected the remedying of societal discrimination as a justification for governmental use of race. Wygant, 476 U. S., at 276 (plurality opinion); Croson, 488 U. S., at 497 (plurality opinion); id., at 520-521 (SCALIA, J., concurring in judgment). For those who believe that every racial disproportionality in our society is caused by some kind of racial discrimination, there can be no distinction between remedying societal discrimination and erasing racial disproportionalities in the country's leadership caste. And if the lack of proportional racial representation among our leaders is not caused by societal discrimination, then "fixing" it is even less of a pressing public necessity. The Court's civics lesson presents yet another example of judicial selection of a theory of political representation based on skin color-an endeavor I have previously rejected. See Holder v. Hall, 512 U. S. 874, 899 (1994) (THOMAS, J., concurring in judgment). The majority appears to believe that broader utopian goals justify the Law School's use of race, but "[t]he Equal Protection Clause commands the elimination of racial barriers, not their creation in order to satisfy our theory as to how society ought to be organized." DeFunis, 416 U. S., at 342 (Douglas, J., dissenting). VII As the foregoing makes clear, I believe the Court's opinion to be, in most respects, erroneous. I do, however, find two points on which I agree. A First, I note that the issue of unconstitutional racial discrimination among the groups the Law School prefers is not presented in this case, because petitioner has never argued that the Law School engages in such a practice, and the Law School maintains that it does not. See Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 32, n. 50, and 6-7, n. 7. I join the Court's opinion insofar as it confirms that this type of racial discrimination remains unlawful. Ante, at 326-327. Under to day's  decision, it is still the case that racial discrimination that does not help a university to enroll an unspecified number, or "critical mass," of underrepresented minority students is unconstitutional. Thus, the Law School may not discriminate in admissions between similarly situated blacks and Hispanics, or between whites and Asians. This is so because preferring black to Hispanic applicants, for instance, does nothing to further the interest recognized by the majority today.[Footnote 12] Indeed, the majority describes such racial balancing as "patently unconstitutional." Ante, at 330. Like the Court, ante, at 336, I express no opinion as to whether the Law School's current admissions program runs afoul of this prohibition. B The Court also holds that racial discrimination in admissions should be given another 25 years before it is deemed no longer narrowly tailored to the Law School's fabricated compelling state interest. Ante, at 343. While I agree that in 25 years the practices of the Law School will be illegal, they are, for the reasons I have given, illegal now. The majority does not and cannot rest its time limitation on any evidence that the gap in credentials between black and white  students is shrinking or will be gone in that timeframe.[Footnote 13] In recent years there has been virtually no change, for example, in the proportion of law school applicants with LSAT scores of 165 and higher who are black.[Footnote 14] In 1993 blacks constituted 1.1% of law school applicants in that score range, though they represented 11.1% of all applicants. Law School Admission Council, National Statistical Report (1994) (hereinafter LSAC Statistical Report). In 2000 the comparable numbers were 1.0% and 11.3%. LSAC Statistical Report (2001). No one can seriously contend, and the Court does not, that the racial gap in academic credentials will disappear in 25 years. Nor is the Court's holding that racial discrimination will be unconstitutional in 25 years made contingent on the gap closing in that time.[Footnote 15]  Indeed, the very existence of racial discrimination of the type practiced by the Law School may impede the narrowing of the LSAT testing gap. An applicant's LSAT score can improve dramatically with preparation, but such preparation is a cost, and there must be sufficient benefits attached to an improved score to justify additional study. Whites scoring between 163 and 167 on the LSAT are routinely rejected by the Law School, and thus whites aspiring to admission at the Law School have every incentive to improve their score to levels above that range. See App. 199 (showing that in 2000, 209 out of 422 white applicants were rejected in this scoring range). Blacks, on the other hand, are nearly guaranteed admission if they score above 155. Id., at 198 (showing that 63 out of 77 black applicants are accepted with LSAT scores above 155). As admission prospects approach certainty, there is no incentive for the black applicant to continue to prepare for the LSAT once he is reasonably assured of achieving the requisite score. It is far from certain that the LSAT test-taker's behavior is responsive to the Law School's admissions policies.[Footnote 16] Nevertheless, the possibility remains that this racial discrimination will help fulfill the bigot's prophecy about black underperformance-just as it confirms the conspiracy theorist's belief that "institutional racism" is at fault for every racial disparity in our society. I therefore can understand the imposition of a 25-year time limit only as a holding that the deference the Court pays to the Law School's educational judgments and refusal to change its admissions policies will itself expire. At that point these policies will clearly have failed to "'eliminat[e]  the [perceived] need for any racial or ethnic'" discrimination because the academic credentials gap will still be there. Ante, at 343 (quoting Nathanson & Bartnik, The Constitutionality of Preferential Treatment for Minority Applicants to Professional Schools, 58 Chicago Bar Rec. 282, 293 (MayJune 1977)). The Court defines this time limit in terms of narrow tailoring, see ante, at 343, but I believe this arises from its refusal to define rigorously the broad state interest vindicated today. Cf. Part II, supra. With these observations, I join the last sentence of Part III of the opinion of the Court. *** For the immediate future, however, the majority has placed its imprimatur on a practice that can only weaken the principle of equality embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Equal Protection Clause. "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537, 559 (1896) (Harlan, J., dissenting). It has been nearly 140 years since Frederick Douglass asked the intellectual ancestors of the Law School to "[d]o nothing with us!" and the Nation adopted the Fourteenth Amendment. Now we must wait another 25 years to see this principle of equality vindicated. I therefore respectfully dissent from the remainder of the Court's opinion and the judgment. CHIEF JUSTICE REHNQUIST, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA, JUSTICE KENNEDY, and JUSTICE THOMAS join, dissenting. I agree with the Court that, "in the limited circumstance when drawing racial distinctions is permissible," the government must ensure that its means are narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling state interest. Ante, at 333; see also Fullilove v. Klutznick, 448 U. S. 448, 498 (1980) (Powell, J., concurring) ("[E]ven if the government proffers a compelling interest to support reliance upon a suspect classification, the means selected must be narrowly drawn to fulfill the govern-  mental purpose"). I do not believe, however, that the University of Michigan Law School's (Law School) means are narrowly tailored to the interest it asserts. The Law School claims it must take the steps it does to achieve a "'critical mass'" of underrepresented minority students. Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 13. But its actual program bears no relation to this asserted goal. Stripped of its "critical mass" veil, the Law School's program is revealed as a naked effort to achieve racial balancing. As we have explained many times, '" "[a]ny preference based on racial or ethnic criteria must necessarily receive a most searching examination."'" Adarand Constructors, Inc. v. Peña, 515 U. S. 200, 223 (1995) (quoting Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Ed., 476 U. S. 267, 273 (1986) (plurality opinion of Powell, J.)). Our cases establish that, in order to withstand this demanding inquiry, respondents must demonstrate that their methods of using race "'fit'" a compelling state interest "with greater precision than any alternative means." Id., at 280, n. 6; Regents of Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke, 438 U. S. 265, 299 (1978) (opinion of Powell, J.) ("When [political judgments] touch upon an individual's race or ethnic background, he is entitled to a judicial determination that the burden he is asked to bear on that basis is precisely tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest"). Before the Court's decision today, we consistently applied the same strict scrutiny analysis regardless of the government's purported reason for using race and regardless of the setting in which race was being used. We rejected calls to use more lenient review in the face of claims that race was being used in "good faith" because" '[m]ore than good motives should be required when government seeks to allocate its resources by way of an explicit racial classification systern.'" Adarand, supra, at 226; Fullilove, supra, at 537 (STEVENS, J., dissenting) ("Racial classifications are simply too pernicious to permit any but the most exact connection between justification and classification"). We likewise re-  jected calls to apply more lenient review based on the particular setting in which race is being used. Indeed, even in the specific context of higher education, we emphasized that "constitutional limitations protecting individual rights may not be disregarded." Bakke, supra, at 314. Although the Court recites the language of our strict scrutiny analysis, its application of that review is unprecedented in its deference. Respondents' asserted justification for the Law School's use of race in the admissions process is "obtaining 'the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.'" Ante, at 328 (quoting Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. i). They contend that a "critical mass" of underrepresented minorities is necessary to further that interest. Ante, at 330. Respondents and school administrators explain generally that "critical mass" means a sufficient number of underrepresented minority students to achieve several objectives: To ensure that these minority students do not feel isolated or like spokespersons for their race; to provide adequate opportunities for the type of interaction upon which the educational benefits of diversity depend; and to challenge all students to think critically and reexamine stereotypes. See App. to Pet. for Cert. 211a; Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 26. These objectives indicate that "critical mass" relates to the size of the student body. Id., at 5 (claiming that the Law School has enrolled "critical mass," or "enough minority students to provide meaningful integration of its classrooms and residence halls"). Respondents further claim that the Law School is achieving "critical mass." Id., at 4 (noting that the Law School's goals have been "greatly furthered by the presence of . . . a 'critical mass' of" minority students in the student body). In practice, the Law School's program bears little or no relation to its asserted goal of achieving "critical mass." Respondents explain that the Law School seeks to accumulate a "critical mass" of each underrepresented minority  group. See, e.g., id., at 49, n. 79 ("The Law School's . . . current policy . . . provide[s] a special commitment to enrolling a 'critical mass' of 'Hispanics' "). But the record demonstrates that the Law School's admissions practices with respect to these groups differ dramatically and cannot be defended under any consistent use of the term "critical mass." From 1995 through 2000, the Law School admitted between 1,130 and 1,310 students. Of those, between 13 and 19 were Native American, between 91 and 108 were African-American, and between 47 and 56 were Hispanic. If the Law School is admitting between 91 and 108 AfricanAmericans in order to achieve "critical mass," thereby preventing African-American students from feeling "isolated or like spokespersons for their race," one would think that a number of the same order of magnitude would be necessary to accomplish the same purpose for Hispanics and Native Americans. Similarly, even if all of the Native American applicants admitted in a given year matriculate, which the record demonstrates is not at all the case,[Footnote *] how can this possibly constitute a "critical mass" of Native Americans in a class of over 350 students? In order for this pattern of admission to be consistent with the Law School's explanation of "critical mass," one would have to believe that the objectives of "critical mass" offered by respondents are achieved with only half the number of Hispanics and one-sixth the number of Native Americans as compared to AfricanAmericans. But respondents offer no race-specific reasons for such disparities. Instead, they simply emphasize the importance of achieving "critical mass," without any explanation of why that concept is applied differently among the three underrepresented minority groups.  These different numbers, moreover, come only as a result of substantially different treatment among the three underrepresented minority groups, as is apparent in an example offered by the Law School and highlighted by the Court: The school asserts that it "frequently accepts nonminority applicants with grades and test scores lower than underrepresented minority applicants (and other nonminority applicants) who are rejected." Ante, at 338 (citing Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 10). Specifically, the Law School states that "[s]ixty-nine minority applicants were rejected between 1995 and 2000 with at least a 3.5 [Grade Point Average (GPA)] and a [score of] 159 or higher on the [Law School Admission Test (LSAT)]" while a number of Caucasian and Asian-American applicants with similar or lower scores were admitted. Ibid. Review of the record reveals only 67 such individuals. Of these 67 individuals, 56 were Hispanic, while only 6 were African-American, and only 5 were Native American. This discrepancy reflects a consistent practice. For example, in 2000, 12 Hispanics who scored between a 159-160 on the LSAT and earned a GPA of 3.00 or higher applied for admission and only 2 were admitted. App. 200-201. Meanwhile, 12 African-Americans in the same range of qualifications applied for admission and all 12 were admitted. Id., at 198. Likewise, that same year, 16 Hispanics who scored between a 151-153 on the LSAT and earned a 3.00 or higher applied for admission and only 1 of those applicants was admitted. Id., at 200-201. Twenty-three similarly qualified AfricanAmericans applied for admission and 14 were admitted. Id., at 198. These statistics have a significant bearing on petitioner's case. Respondents have never offered any race-specific arguments explaining why significantly more individuals from one underrepresented minority group are needed in order to achieve "critical mass" or further student body diversity. They certainly have not explained why Hispanics, who they  have said are among "the groups most isolated by racial barriers in our country," should have their admission capped out in this manner. Brief for Respondent Bollinger et al. 50. True, petitioner is neither Hispanic nor Native American. But the Law School's disparate admissions practices with respect to these minority groups demonstrate that its alleged goal of "critical mass" is simply a sham. Petitioner may use these statistics to expose this sham, which is the basis for the Law School's admission of less qualified underrepresented minorities in preference to her. Surely strict scrutiny cannot permit these sorts of disparities without at least some explanation. Only when the "critical mass" label is discarded does a likely explanation for these numbers emerge. The Court states that the Law School's goal of attaining a "critical mass" of underrepresented minority students is not an interest in merely" 'assur[ing] within its student body some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin.'" Ante, at 329 (quoting Bakke, 438 U. S., at 307 (opinion of Powell, J.)). The Court recognizes that such an interest "would amount to outright racial balancing, which is patently unconstitutional." Ante, at 330. The Court concludes, however, that the Law School's use of race in admissions, consistent with Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke, only pays" '[s]ome attention to numbers.'" Ante, at 336 (quoting Bakke, supra, at 323). But the correlation between the percentage of the Law School's pool of applicants who are members of the three minority groups and the percentage of the admitted applicants who are members of these same groups is far too precise to be dismissed as merely the result of the school paying "some attention to [the] numbers." As the tables below show, from 1995 through 2000 the percentage of admitted applicants who were members of these minority groups closely tracked the percentage of individuals in the school's applicant pool who were from the same groups. 
|Year||Number of law school applicants||Number of African-American applicants||% of applicants who were African-American||Number of applicants admitted by the law school||Number of African-American applicants admitted||% of admitted applicants who were African-American|
|Year||Number of law school applicants||Number of Hispanic applicants||% of applicants who were Hispanic||Number of applicants admitted by the law school||Number of Hispanic applicants admitted||% of admitted applicants who were Hispanic|
|Year||Number of law school applicants||Number of Native American applicants||% of applicants who were Native American||Number of applicants admitted by the law school||Number of Native American applicants admitted||% of admitted applicants who were Native American|
|Year||Percentage of enrolled minority students|