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Bush: Court should decide role of race in admissions

President cites 'race-neutral' options

By Sean Loughlin
CNN Washington Bureau

President Bush outlined his opposition last week to the admissions policy at the University of Michigan.
President Bush outlined his opposition last week to the admissions policy at the University of Michigan.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Stressing his belief in "race-neutral" solutions, President Bush said Tuesday he would let the U.S. Supreme Court decide whether it is appropriate for a university to consider race in its admissions process.

Bush, speaking to reporters briefly after a meeting with economists at the White House, declined to say whether he thought race could ever be taken into consideration in deciding admissions.

"We'll leave the courts to define the outer limits of the Constitution," Bush said.

Last week, Bush announced his opposition to the University of Michigan's admissions policy, where race is a factor considered when reviewing applicants. In the undergraduate school, some minorities are awarded points on the basis of their race. The president criticized the policy as a quota system.

At the university, undergraduate applicants who are minorities receive 20 points under a 150-point admissions policy, which awards points in other categories as well, including geography and personal achievement. Scholarship athletes, for example, receive 20 points, as do those who meet the criteria under "provost's discretion."

The administration filed two friend-of-the-court briefs outlining its opposition to the specific practices at the undergraduate College of Literature, Science and Arts and the university's law school, which targets filling each class with a certain percentage of minority students.

The Supreme Court scheduled arguments in both cases for April 1.

In its briefs, the administration did not address the broader question of whether race is ever a legitimate admissions factor.

But two prominent members of the administration, who are African-American, did outline a public position. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Friday that race can be considered as "one factor among others" to achieve a diverse student body.

Secretary of State Colin Powell went further, telling CNN Sunday that he was a "strong proponent" of affirmative action and that race should be considered.

"I believe race should be a factor among many other factors in determining the makeup of a student body of a university," Powell said.

Bush on Tuesday pointed out that Rice has said she support's Bush's position. The president said nothing about Powell's comments.

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