Petitioner applied to 12 medical schools at age 33 and was a national merit scholar. During college he joined ROTC and was a Vietnam vet. He was later a NASA engineer and scored in the top 3% on his MCAT entrance exam. He applied to two schools, who when rejecting him, noted that his age was above their limit. Many of the schools petitioner applied to granted access to other minorities who had significantly lower test scores, among other qualifications. Many of the schools had stated admissions policies that designated spots for minority groups. Petitioner sued UC David medical school particularly and requested an injunction for his admission, claiming he was being discriminated against on the basis of his race under the equal protection clause. Petitioner won at trial court and was granted admission.
Whether UC Davis’ affirmative action policies and actions were a violation of the equal protection clause.
Yes, held, the policy is partially violative of the equal protection clause. In a 4 -4 plurality, Justice Powell made the deciding vote and wrote the deciding opinion. The court held that race may be one of several factors in admissions criteria. But the special admissions committee that reserved spots for minorities is unconstitutional. The quota system itself contravenes the goals sought by considerations of race in the admission process because it seeks to admit people solely on the basis of race. Where the goal is to have a diversified student body, particularly a diversified set of ideals and principles, a quota system in no way guarantees such diversity of viewpoints. Powell ordered that petitioner be admitted because the university could not prove he would have never been admitted but for his race.