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Attorney in Michigan case speaks on importance of affirmative action

“We believe that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin,” said Jonathan Alger, coordinator of the University of Michigan’s affirmative action case. “The problem is we’re not there yet. If it weren’t for the history of this country and the state of our current society, we wouldn’t need affirmative action.”

Jonathan Alger spoke last night to a crowded room of University of Michigan alumni at their annual central Ohio spring dinner. Alger is the assistant general counsel at the University of Michigan and a major figure in their admissions policy lawsuit.

The lawsuit is actually two lawsuits: one is a challenge of the undergraduate admissions policy, and the other is a challenge of the law school’s admissions policy. The lawsuits, which were launched four years ago, are expected to be decided at the end of June. Alger was among several lawyers who presented oral arguments in the case on April 1.

Alger was chosen to speak at the dinner because of his prominence and relevance to University of Michigan Alumni.

“We’re always looking for speakers who are timely and can speak on issues of interest to the university community,” said Beth Rudner, vice president of the Michigan Alumni Association of central Ohio.

Alger made it clear that this case will affect much more then just the future of admissions policies at the University of Michigan. According to Alger, this case will affect schools, businesses, military academies, and labor groups.

“This isn’t just about the U of M, it’s about higher education all over the United States,” said Alger.

According to Alger, the university’s position is that the constitution, as interpreted by the supreme court’s 1978 Bakke decision, permits it to take race and ethnicity into account in its admissions program. In the Bakke case Justice Lewis Powell ruled race is one of a number of factors which contributes to a robust environment on campus. He said diversity was an important enough goal (a compelling interest) to justify the use of affirmative action.

April Opper, a University of Michigan graduate and law student at Ohio State, championed the diversity she found at the University of Michigan.

“I truly feel I am a different person because I went to the U of M. That was the first time I had ever been in an integrated environment. It totally changed my worldview,” said Opper.

To learn more about the case and the unique insight offered by Alger, be sure to read the full version of this article in Monday’s Lantern.

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