1978 June 28

“Bakke:” Supreme Court OKs Affirmative Action, But Not Rigid Quotas


Regents of the University of California v. Bakke was the first important Supreme Court test of affirmative action as a policy in college admissions and employment. A deeply divided court, with six separate opinions, upheld affirmative action, holding that race could be taken into account, but that rigid quotas were unconstitutional. Deep divisions over racial preferences were also evident in the controversy within the administration of President Jimmy Carter over what position to take in the Bakke case (see September 6, 1977, for President Carter’s position, which was essentially the same as the Court’s position in Bakke).

The Bakke decision touched off over 30 years of Court cases over affirmative action. In Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle, on June 28, 2007, the Supreme Court appeared to indicate that it would not accept any race-conscious remedies. And on April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court upheld a Michigan State constitutional amendment forbidding affirmative action, in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

The Court in Bakke: “Held: The judgment below is affirmed insofar as it orders respondent’s [Bakke] admission to Davis and invalidates petitioner’s [the University of California] special admissions program, but is reversed insofar as it prohibits petitioner [the university] from taking race into account as a factor in its future admissions decisions.”

Read: Howard Ball, The Bakke Case: Race, Education, and Affirmative Action (2000)

Learn more about affirmative action from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights: http://www.civilrights.org/resources/civilrights101/affirmaction.html

See a timeline on affirmative action history: http://www.infoplease.com/spot/affirmativetimeline1.html

Learn more from the ACLU about affirmative action: https://www.aclu.org/racial-justice/affirmative-action

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