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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Students at Michigan React Favorably to Supreme Court's Ruling on Affirmative Action

Aired June 23, 2003 - 10:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go on now to Ann Arbor, Michigan where the University of Michigan is and our own Jeff Flock getting the pulse of the students there from this reaction -- Jeff.
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Fredricka. That's the library out behind me. We're on what the call the Diag (ph), which is the essentially student quad down here. And I want to bring in the student body president herself, not a minority, but somebody who has been staunchly behind affirmative action. Why so important to you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I feel that at this university the diversity that affirmative action creates is really what makes it so -- such a great institution, such a great place to learn. And there's only so much you can get just from a book. And a lot of the learning that I've gotten from this university has been from the classroom and the relationships that I've made and the students that I've met.

FLOCK: Stand by, Angela (ph), with me one second. I want to bring in George Gardner (ph) who is a potential applicant to the law school here. So this is particularly good news for you, yes?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. I'm elated that the Supreme Court has basically realized the importance that race plays in our society and the fact that they allow the law school still to evaluate as a factor in their admissions.

FLOCK: Now are you concerned, though? I mean you want to get into the university because you belong here, not because you got some soft of a free pass. Are you concerned that you either got into the undergraduate program or may get into the law school because of some sort of a free pass? That some of your fellow students might see it that way?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never see it as a free pass. I mean any student that's on this campus and in the law school deserves to be there. They're qualified applicants. And race is just another factor that goes along with that.

FLOCK: I want to bring Angela back and say, but if one applicant is more qualified than another, based on their test scores and their SATs and their grades in high school, is it not fair to make sure that that person, regardless of their race, gets in and somebody else doesn't?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well we need to realize is that affirmative action isn't only race based in some cases. And at this university, we don't just let people in based on test scores, grades and race. There are a lot of other factors including essays that people write, whether you're from, like Oregon or you're from Michigan or you're from the U.P. (ph) or you're from Detroit. And I feel like those are really important factors into the point system also that we need to take into consideration.

FLOCK: OK, now let's be clear on where we stand right now. That is, that the law school program and admissions policy have been upheld. The policy that you got into the university on, because you're an undergrad, what is your year here and that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a senior at the university.

FLOCK: The policy that got you into the university is now still to be determined by the high court?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes it is. We haven't heard yet how the Supreme Court has ruled on, specifically, the undergrad's policy.

FLOCK: You have been working on this so you know the intricacies of the law school plan, which actually makes each student get sort of considered individually. It's very different. It's a point system for the undergrads. And that one is still to be determined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it is. We're still waiting to hear more about that. So I don't know how to comment on that yet.

FLOCK: Other than it might take -- if that's not upheld, it may take a lot more admissions personnel looking at a lot more applications?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, we know that the university will uphold their commitment to diversity however, the Supreme Court rules specifically on the admissions policy. And we hope that the university will work alongside students to create a policy that will take race into account and will uphold affirmative action and will display their commitments to diversity.

FLOCK: Because I want to ask Jeffrey (ph) to back off a little bit and look at this whole group that we've assembled here. And obviously, this is a diverse group. And if it wasn't for that diversity, would this university be what it is for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Definitely not. If the diversity of the University of Michigan were not what it is now, I might not have come to the University of Michigan. It's one of the major factors that went into the fact that I applied to this school and that upon admission that I decided to come here. And I know that is the case for several students who are on this campus.

It's not just about what happens in your books or in terms of what professor stand before you. It's about the people you have to learn with in those classrooms and to work with in your academic groups and in your social settings.

FLOCK: Do you think you'd have been here if it wasn't for the university's affirmative action program?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a really hard question to ask. I really never know what went into the minds of the admission officers because they have a range of points that they can go through. So I really can't answer that question.

What I do know is that I'm here, I'm going to finish, I'm going to graduate, I'm going to go on to law school, which is the same for several other students who are here. So I am in favor and I'm really excited about today's ruling.

FLOCK: Folks, I appreciate your time very much, thank you.

I can tell you as a parent of high school senior, the whole admissions process is sort of shrouded in some secrecy, but it has certainly been illuminated here in the case of the University of Michigan. We certainly know a lot more about it and, i guess, a lot more to come from the high court, shortly.

Folks, stand by with us, if you would. We'll continue to hang here and see if we get anymore news.

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