An amicus curiae court brief on the controversial Bakke case filed in the Supreme Court Monday by the Department of Justice argues in favor of affirmative action programs, and thus supports the position of the University of California in that case, the university's general counsel said yesterday.
Harvard is one of a number of institutions that have filed similar briefs rejecting Allan Bakke's charge that the University of California at Davis Medical School turned him down because he is a white male.
An amicus curiae or "friend of the court" brief is submitted to the court as an indication of the belief of a person or institution interested in a case.
The Supreme Court of California ruled in favor of Bakke last spring, saying the University of California behaved illegally in maintaining a quota system for minority students at the medical school. The University of California is appealing the case in the Supreme Court.
Donald Reidhaar, general counsel to the Regents of the University of California, said yesterday the government's brief "is quite supportive" of the university's position in recognizing that the problem of gross underrepresentation of minorities in professional schools can only be alleviated by taking race into account in admissions.
The Justice Department brief, which states that "neutrality toward race is often inadequate to rectify what has gone before," does not directly address the issue of the application of quotas for affirmative action, which has raised much of the controversy in the case. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the government would come out strongly against quotas even if used for affirmative action purposes.
Instead, the submitted brief said the case record is not clear enough on the question of the quota system to permit a ruling on the issue.
Harvard's brief in support of U.C. Davis argues that a racially diverse class is educationally valuable and that such diversity cannot be achieved without affirmative action programs.
Nancy Randolph, special assistant to President Bok in charge of overseeing Harvard's affirmative action program, said yesterday the brief appears to encourage affirmative action, and is a valuable show of support from the federal government.
Randolph said the problem of quotas is a false issue because "critics translate goals into quota."
Reidhaar said the University of California has flexible goals, not quotas, Archibald Cox '34. Loeb University Professor, who will argue the case for the University of California before the Supreme Court in October, declined to comment on the Justice Department brief yesterday.
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