Charles Nailen/The Hoya President John J. DeGioia elucidates the university’s approach to affirmative action and its support of the University of Michigan case in Gaston Hall Wednesday.

University President John J. DeGioia announced that the university filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court on Feb. 14 during a speech Wednesday night titled “Cracks in the eritocracy.” Georgetown will side with the University of ichigan to uphold a continued commitment to affirmative action in the court cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger.

The affirmative action cases are seen as the most far-reaching cases before the high court since the University of California Board of Regents v. Bakke case in 1978. In Supreme Court cases, parties with legal expertise can submit a brief of amici curiae, or “friends of the court,” to highlight additional arguments supporting either side.

“I am pleased to announce today that Georgetown has joined a group of leading universities, Columbia, Cornell, Rice and Vanderbilt, in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of Michigan,” DeGioia said. “We believe strongly that universities should be allowed to continue to consider race and ethnicity among other factors in our admissions processes.”

Georgetown law students also filed an amicus brief signed by almost 14,000 students at over 140 schools, and Law Center Dean Judith Areen joined many law school deans in another brief.

“The volume of briefs filed in this case has set a new record for education litigation,” DeGioia said. “Whatever the ruling of the Supreme Court, we are seeing in this response broad support for policies of affirmative action.”

Although the ruling might not directly affect the university, as the University of Michigan is a public school, University Counsel Jane Genster said that the nature of the case will challenge the 14th amendment. Title VI, the federal statute for universities that receive federal aid, is interpreted consistently with the fourteenth amendment. “The public law decision will be influential with regard to how it affects us,” she said.

DeGioia discussed strengths and weaknesses in minority recruitment of students and faculty for both the undergraduate and graduate levels,

“Our Law Center ranks second only to Howard University in educating the next generation of African American attorneys,” he said, adding that the Law Center has more fulltime African American faculty than most peer schools.

“While these are some of our successes, it’s clear to me that there are areas where Georgetown still has a long way to go,” he said. “These include recruiting and retaining increased numbers of minority faculty members, effective recruitment of students of color for graduate programs and developing new and creative ways to promote not just tolerance but respect and friendship within our multicultural student body.”

DeGioia addressed the need to keep public schools competitive with more rigorous college preparatory education programs so that students from public schools do not lose interest in colleges and universities such as Georgetown.

“While we may be handling our admissions well at Georgetown, the reality is still that we may someday face a day of reckoning in which the great students of entire communities decide that admission processes don’t recognize their merit – so they simply don’t apply,” he said.

In an interview with university press, DeGioia discussed the justification behind taking an official position.

“We have a policy that is committed to affirmative action. That is the university’s explicit position. That has been the case for longer than a couple decades now,” he said. “Like many universities, we are wrestling with the question that if we have a commitment to a particular policy and that commitment may be challenged in some way by a case before the court, should we weigh in and express our own opinion based upon our commitment?”

DeGioia also said that Georgetown can work to eliminate the discrepancies in public education that often puts a disproportionate number of minority students at disadvantage by educating responsible leaders for the future. In addition, the university will continue to explore how best to work with public schools in Washington, D.C., in order to make a difference.

“There are plenty of great models for universities to follow in enhancing diversity but there are not as many models of university-city partnerships and addressing public school education,” he said.

A panel of students and faculty responded to DeGioia’s remarks after the speech, including HOYA staff writer Cherise Williams (COL ’05), Eduardo Ferrer (MSB ’02, LAW ’05), Law Center Professor Elizabeth Patterson and en’s Basketball Coach Emeritus John Thompson.

“We must dedicate ourselves to embrace an attitude of diversity,” Ferrer, a Cuban-American, said. “What better place to lead the charge than in the university setting?”

Thompson stated that while affirmative action is necessary, society needs to work towards the day where such policies will no longer be necessary.

“How long are we going to be having these discussions?” he asked. “We’ve been having these discussions since I got here. Damn. That was in 1972.”

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