Rehnquist deferred to universities during term
With the recent death of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, questions have been raised regarding the future of higher education in the hands of his successor, John G. Roberts. The late Rehnquist?s decisions were met with favorable sentiments from University officials; despite his image as an unwavering conservative, Rehnquist was careful when dealing with issues of higher education to defer to the expertise of school administrators, said Mary Jo Dively, CMU?s Vice President and General Counsel.
Justice Rehnquist supported the Supreme Court?s decision to require Virginia?s state-supported military college, the Virginia Military Institute, to admit women in United States v. Virginia (1996). In Gonzaga v. Doe (2002), Justice Rehnquist protected college authority when supporting the Supreme Court?s ruling that individuals cannot sue colleges for violating a federal law that protects the privacy of student records ? as stated in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (1974).
He also supported moderate affirmative action, fighting against impersonal quotas but supporting the use of race as a factor in the admissions process. Accordingly, he agreed with the Supreme Court?s decision in the 2003 Gratz v. Bollingercase to eliminate the strict race-conscious admissions policy at the University of Michigan?s law school, but dissented in the Grutter v. Bollinger case (2003) regarding admission to the University?s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Justice O?Connor?s majority statement approved the use of race as a consideration in the applicant selection process; though Rehnquist agreed, he expressed doubt in the law school?s motives in its implementation of affirmative action.
?I believe because John Roberts understands [higher education], we will see continued deference to administrators,? said CMU?s Dively. She also said that Roberts was a longtime partner of Hogan and Hartson, the same firm that represents Carnegie Mellon in its legal affairs. From her positive experience with the firm, she was confident that during his years there he ?learned from them and gained substantial insight and experience [regarding] the unique culture of higher education.?
Not only does this University support Roberts? position on affirmative action, said Dively, but it was also the instigator of the 2003 amicus brief that testified that race is a justifiable contributing factor in the admissions process and that it is in accordance with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thirty-seven other private colleges and universities nationwide added their names to the document.
The brief includes President Cohon?s 1999 Statement on Diversity, in which he said, ?Diverse perspectives and backgrounds breed the intellectual vitality essential for the health and progress of the University. Simply put, becoming more diverse will make Carnegie Mellon and the work it does better.?
The Tartan contacted the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, but spokespeople there declined to comment on any effects higher education might feel as the result of Roberts? nomination.
Dively believes Roberts will be one of the contributing factors to the constant improvement of this University: ?We will benefit from Roberts. Higher education is delighted.?