WASHINGTON – In 1978, the Supreme Court struck down affirmative action quotas in college admissions in the Bakke decision. However, the ruling allowed the consideration of race in university admissions leaving the door open for universities to pursue aggressive recruitment policies for students of color and women.

That changed when the current right-wing court agreed to hear a case brought by three white male University of Michigan students who allege they were denied admission to the Law School because of the university’s diversity program.

Ikeita Cantu-Hinojosa, with the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, said, “It is difficult to overstate the importance of the announcement by the United States Supreme Court, because this is the first time since 1978 that the high court has decided to hear the consideration of race in higher education, and so the impact of today’s decision will be felt for generations to come.”

University of Michigan officials warn that any attempt by the Supreme Court to strike down the affirmative action admissions program would greatly hamper their efforts to maintain a diverse student body.

“We’re urging the court not to turn back the clock on our ability to assemble a diverse student body,” President Mary Sue Coleman says. “Universities have relied upon this important Supreme Court precedent for a quarter of a century. A decision reversing Bakke would severely impoverish our higher education system.”

A ruling is expected in June.