Does the U.S. Constitution forbid or permit the University of Michigan's specific racial preference admissions schemes?  That's the question. Legacies:  The "Where's Waldo" of Constitutional Law

Having filed what we believe is a fairly cogent brief against the University of Michigan's unconstitutional admissions policies, we have a modicum of interest in the public debate that is as inevitable as the sun rising.  In fact, responding to the media's voracious appetite to fill time between commercials, we have participated in some, even though we suspect that our three a.m. audiences have more on their minds than learned discourse on equal protection.

One of the left's most intriguing (and strangely ubiquitous) talking points - whether to obfuscate Michigan's untenable constitutional position or just bash the President of the United States - has been over college admissions policies that favor "legacies," the progeny of alumni.

Indeed, as our Michigan by the Numbers piece points out, four points out of a potential 150 are awarded to legacies.  That's one fewer than awarded to "men in nursing," one more than Reese Witherspoon would have gotten for her outstanding personal essay.  Since it is inconceivable to liberals, all of whom triumphed against adversity, that any legacy could get the eight points awarded for having taken a difficult high school curriculum or the 12 points awarded for a perfect SAT score, four points seem like a pretty dismal exchange.

Even so, we are beyond clueless as to what relevance legacy admissions (or even athletic admissions) have to do with the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which we and others have tried to argue without wandering into the cherry grove, intentionally or otherwise.

Does the U.S. Constitution forbid or permit the University of Michigan's specific racial preference admissions schemes?  That's the question.  That's the case before the Court, which the nine justices thereof will decide without once, we predict, writing the word "legacy."

To you who want to make legacies a constitutional issue, go ahead and file your case.  It'll give you one additional strict constructionist judge to whine about - the one who suggests you go back to law school (even if you are currently teaching at one).

January 23, 2003
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