In the Shadow of Gratz and Grutter: Grieving Diversity at the University of Michigan
73 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2013 Last revised: 9 Oct 2013
Date Written: July 23, 2013
At the same time the affirmative action cases of Gratz and Grutter were winding their way to the Supreme Court, an internal grievance alleging discrimination and the failure to consider the value of diversity in the tenure process was being considered inside the University of Michigan Law School. This article explores the interconnected histories of Gratz, Grutter and the grievance, examining the internal difficulties and contradictions universities face in living up to their public commitments to fight discrimination and cultivate meaningful forms of diversity. The year following the Supreme Court decision, the University celebrated its accomplishments in 'Defending Diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan', co-authored by Patricia Gurin, the University’s lead expert witness on the effects of diversity in higher education and Jeffrey S. Lehman, Dean of the Law School through most of the litigation. In the internal grievance, Jeff Lehman advocated an interpretation of the Law School Grievance Policy that prohibited the grievance of any matter relating to tenure, including the crassest forms of discrimination or the failure of the faculty to consider the virtues of diversity. The Grievance Review Board, chaired by Patricia Gurin, adopted Dean Lehman’s position and categorically barred all grievances. Ironically, the hearing took place the very same day the University filed its response to plaintiff’s petition for writ of certiorari, where the University actively maintained that diversity in higher education constituted a compelling state interest. Meaningful progress on civil rights requires deep institutional change. It is often difficult to get even good people to do the right thing. The interconnected stories of Gratz, Grutter and the grievance – the same institution, with the same actors, at the same time the cases were being litigated – illustrate broader lessons about the challenges often preventing universities from making progressive change.
Keywords: LGBT rights, diversity, affirmative action, discrimination, tenure
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