Before Affirmative Action as we know it, Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke (1978) said no more racial quotas in medical schools.
The facts of Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke are straight forward. When applying at the UC Davis Medical School, Allen Bakke (Respondent), a white person, alleged he was denied admission on racial grounds, which was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.
Bakke was an 8 to 1 decision. The majority included: William J. Brennan, Jr., Warren E. Burger, Potter Stewart, Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William Rehnquist, and John P. Stevens. The dissent was Byron White.
There were several questions at issue in the Bakke case: First, is the special admissions program of the Univesity of California constitutional? Second, can race be used as one of many factors in the admissions process?
Bakke set forth the following rule: Race can be used as one of many factors for admission to public educational institutions.
Here’s the holding of Bakke. The US Supreme Court held Bakke be ordered back into UC Davis Medical School, and the school’s practice of reserving 16 seats for minority students abolished. Furthermore, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides Bakke a cause of action.
Interestingly, the Bakke had an impact on Affirmative Action. Basically, the Bakke decision said no more use of racial quotas. At the same time, it said race can be used as one of many factors in determining entry to medical schools.
The Supreme Court would not acknowledge embedded societal racism in Bakke. They would not get into the business that society had racial inequality and was class based. Instead, they would go with a Powell majority that said affirmative action programs must be narrowly tailored and have educational benefits that flow from diversity as a compelling interest. The Supreme Court was not willing to endorse Justice Thurgood Marshall and his historical racial injustice opinion.
Ironically, educational institutions would work around the Bakke decision. Later, Texas educational institutions would develop the Top Ten Percent Plan, which was a race conscious program designed to help minority students come up from some place. Plus, the Michigan law program would develop holistic review, which used race as one of many factors to determine entry of a student. Both educational institutions would fly under the radar and quietly use race conscious programs to gain more diversity in students.
In time, schools would just drop the LSAT, which was argued to racist. Recently, Harvard dropped their LSAT program and now only use the GRE. Other universities would follow suit by dropping LSATS and SAT. Historically, the only schools to not use LSAT and SAT were Black colleges like Howard, MoreHouse, etc. However, as more schools drop LSAT and SAT, this has led to problems for ranking systems like US News.
In the end, the UC Davis Medical School special admission program was ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. However, the court said race could be used as one of many factors. Now, educational institutions using Affirmative Action programs could use race, but they could never achieve a set number of diversity students since that would amount to racial quotas.