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Affirmative Action and Minority Enrollments in Medical and Law Schools

Susan Welch and John Gruhl

Publication Year: 1998

Affirmative action is one of the central issues of American politics today, and admission to colleges and universities has been at the center of the debate. While this issue has been discussed for years, there is very little real data on the impact of affirmative action programs on admissions to institutions of higher learning. Susan Welch and John Gruhl in this groundbreaking study look at the impact on admissions of policies developed in the wake of the United States Supreme Court's landmark 1978 Bakke decision. In Bakke, the Court legitimized the use of race as one of several factors that could be considered in admissions decisions, while forbidding the use of quotas. Opponents of affirmative action claim that because of the Bakke decision thousands of less-qualified minorities have been granted admission in preference to more qualified white students; proponents claim that without the affirmative action policies articulated in Bakke, minorities would not have made the gains they have made in higher education. Based on a survey of admissions officers for law and medical schools and national enrollment data, the authors give us the first analysis of the real impact of the Bakke decision and affirmative action programs on enrollments in medical and law schools. Admission to medical schools and law schools is much sought after and is highly competitive. In examining admissions patterns to these schools the authors are able to identify the effects of affirmative action programs and the Bakke decision in what may be the most challenging case. This book will appeal to scholars of race and gender in political science, sociology and education as well as those interested in the study of affirmative action policies. Susan Welch is Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University. John Gruhl is Professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

When we began this project in the late 1980s, affirmative action and the compromises articulated in the Bakke decision seemed to be a settled and accepted part of public policy. To be sure, much of the white public had never accepted some of the more far-reaching affirmative action practices, but even so, there was some support for giving black Americans extra opportunities in education and employment.

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pp. 1-5

In 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court announced its famous, or infamous, decision in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (438 U.S. 265). The ruling invalidated the admissions plan of the medical school at the University of California-Davis, which reserved 16 of 100 places in each year's entering class for racial minorities. The divided Court held that the school could not reserve a certain number of places ...

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1. Desegregation, Affirmative Action, and Bakke

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pp. 7-36

When the Supreme Court established the separate-but-equal doctrine in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, Justice John Harlan, a former slaveholder, was the sole dissenter: "Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens" (163 U.S. 537, 559). During the first decades of the civil rights movement, Harlan's statement would be quoted by proponents of equality as the embodiment of the real ...

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2. The Context of Bakke: Resources and Competition

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pp. 37-59

Minority enrollment in professional schools is shaped by many factors. The desire of African Americans and Hispanics to attend medical or law school is only part of the picture. Enrollment is affected by the numbers of black and Latino students graduating from college, which in turn are shaped by the resources of the minority population, the resources the larger society is willing to invest in supporting undergraduate education, ...

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3. Perceptions of Bakke and Its Impact

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pp. 61-83

We begin our analyses of the impact of the Bakke case by examining briefly the extent to which the news of Bakke was disseminated to general and professional audiences. We then look at how law and medical school admissions officers viewed the impact of this decision. The unique source for this analysis is the result of a survey questionnaire sent to every accredited law and medical school in existence in 1976.

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4. Bakke and the Applicant Pool

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pp. 85-106

In this chapter we first turn from the way the Bakke decision was perceived by administrative officers to how Bakke affected trends in applications to professional schools. Unfortunately, relatively complete temporal data exist only for medical schools, so they will be the focus of the first part of our analyses. 1 In the second part of the chapter we return to our survey data to see how both medical and law school officials assessed the changing quality of the black and Hispanic applicant pools during the 1980s.

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5. Bakke and Admissions Decisions

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pp. 107-132

The analyses of the previous chapter suggest that the Bakke decision had little effect on individual minority students considering applying to law or medical school. But perhaps Bakke was of greater moment to medical and law school admissions officials. After all, admissions officers and university legal advisers were keenly aware of the decision, whereas some individual applicants possibly had never heard of Bakke.

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6. Minority Enrollment and the Courts

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pp. 133-176

Minority enrollment in medical and law school, which had been minuscule, began increasing substantially in the mid-1960s after years of struggle for civil rights and after efforts by professional organizations and schools to boost minority opportunities. Minority enrollment peaked in the mid-1970s, before the Bakke decision in 1978. Yet its proponents and opponents alike heralded the decision as one that would ...


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pp. 177-185


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pp. 187-195


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pp. 197-212

Subject and Author Index

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pp. 213-221

Index of Court Opinions

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pp. 223-224

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022717
E-ISBN-10: 0472022717
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472108503
Print-ISBN-10: 0472108506

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 19 tables, 23 figures
Publication Year: 1998

OCLC Number: 646068701
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Affirmative Action and Minority Enrollments in Medical and Law Schools

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Subject Headings

  • Bakke, Allan Paul.
  • Affirmative action programs in education -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Discrimination in education -- Law and legislation -- United States.
  • Universities and colleges -- Admission -- Law and legislation -- United States.
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