The Public Interest

The affirmative action stalemate

Nathan Glazer

Winter 1988

TEN YEARS AGO the Supreme Court handed down its first decision on affirmative action. It dealt with the case of an applicant who had been denied admission to a medical school, while minority applicants with lesser academic qualifications had been admitted to fill a quota the medical school had set. The Supreme Court ruled, five to four, that quotas were illegal and that the applicant should be admitted. A different fiveman majority (only Justice Powell was included in both majorities) also ruled that it was legitimate to take race into account in making admissions decisions. The Court seemed to have come down on both sides of the issue.

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