LOS ANGELES - The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California today applauded the Supreme Court's decisions upholding the principle that public universities may continue to use affirmative action to ensure a diverse student body. In two landmark rulings, the Supreme Court upheld the race-conscious admissions policies of the University of Michigan's law school while rejecting as unconstitutional the undergraduate school's 'point system.'

'The Court's decision today makes clear that there is still a strong need for race to be considered as one of many factors in higher education admissions,' said Ramona Ripston, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California. 'This is a victory for higher education and for those who believe that our country will enjoy a brighter future when we increase our understanding of one another rather than reinstate some of the barriers that have kept us apart for so many generations.'

'Here in California, over a million public school students attend overcrowded schools that lack adequate bathroom facilities, textbooks and qualified teachers,' continued Ripston. 'To tell these children that the playing field has been leveled and that there is no longer a need to consider race as a factor would be dishonest to say the least.'

The ACLU and its Michigan affiliate were co-counsel on behalf of a group of minority students in the challenge to the University's undergraduate admissions affirmative action policy, Gratz v. Bollinger, 02-51, and joined a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the University's law school admissions policy in Grutter v. Bollinger, 02-241.0

Hundreds of groups and individuals filed briefs with the Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan's admissions policies and race-conscious affirmative action programs. Notables include former military leaders General Norman Schwarzkopf and General John M. Shalikashvili; business executives from General Motors, 3M, Pfizer and Northrop Grumman; and West Point military academy.