Dallas Morning News -- 1/16/03

Bush says race-based school policy is flawed

Stand on landmark Michigan case may not please friends, foes

By DAVID JACKSON Washington Bureau

President Bush weighed in on a landmark Supreme Court case Wednesday, saying he supports racial diversity but opposes racial quotas, a middle-ground approach that may anger both sides in the debate over affirmative action.

"As we work to address the wrong of racial prejudice, we must not use means that create another wrong, and thus perpetuate our divisions," Mr. Bush said as his lawyers prepared a legal brief asking the high court to declare the University of Michigan's affirmative action admissions policies unconstitutional. Supporters of Michigan said Mr. Bush's proposal that colleges use race-neutral means to promote racial diversity is unrealistic and would deny opportunities to black and Hispanic students.

Conservatives, meanwhile, criticized the president for declining to call for an end to any use of race in the admissions process.

During his seven-minute speech, Mr. Bush said: "I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed."

Michigan used a point system to assess applicants. Mr. Bush protested that the school awarded 20 points to black, Hispanic and American Indian students, noting that the system gave only 12 points for perfect SAT scores. The program also set targets for minority admissions to the university's law school, passing over white applicants in the process, he said.

"At their core," Mr. Bush said, "the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race."

Supporters of the Michigan plan disputed that, calling the system a good-faith effort to attract a broad range of students. They said the school also awarded points for extracurricular activities as well as to applicants with financial disadvantages, a group that would include poor white students. . . .