Discrimination that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment committed by an institution that accepts federal funds also constitutes a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000d et seq. Likewise, with respect to 42 U.S.C.S.§ 1981, the provision was meant, by its broad terms, to proscribe discrimination in the making or enforcement of contracts against, or in favor of, any race. Furthermore, a contract for educational services is a "contract" for purposes of 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981. Finally, purposeful discrimination that violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment will also violate 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981.
The university's undergraduate admissions policy was based on a point system that automatically granted 20 points to applicants from underrepresented minority groups. This class-action equal protection suit against respondents, a university, a college, and university officials, alleged racial discrimination. The parties appealed the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan's rulings. The appellate court heard the case en banc on the same day as a parallel case concerning the university's law school admissions program, which it upheld. Although the circuit court had not yet ruled in the instant case, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Does the University of Michigan's use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or 42 USC § 1981 [42 USCS § 1981]?
The Court held as an initial matter that the lead plaintiff had standing, having been denied freshman admission and having the potential to be denied transfer admission. The Court also found that the policy made race the decisive factor for virtually every minimally qualified underrepresented minority applicant. As the policy was not narrowly tailored to achieve respondents' asserted compelling interest in diversity, it violated the Equal Protection Clause, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and 42 U.S.C.S. § 1981.