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Regents of the University of

California v. Bakke
PONENTE: Justice Powell
1. The medical school of the University of California at Davis admitted 100 students each year. The
university used two admissions programs: a regular admissions program and a special
admissions program.
2. The purpose of the special admissions program was to increase the number of minority and
"disadvantaged" students in the class. Applicants who were members of a minority group or who
believed that they were disadvantaged could apply for the special admissions program.
3. In the regular admissions program, applicants had to have a grade point average of at least 2.5
on a scale of 4.0 or they were automatically rejected. In the special admissions program,
however, applicants did not have to have a grade point average of 2.5 and 16 of the 100 spaces
in the medical program were reserved only for the disadvantaged students. This is known as a
quota system.
4. From 1971 to 1974 the special program admitted 21 black students, 30 Mexican Americans, and
12 Asians, for a total of 63 minority students. The regular program admitted a total of 44 minority
students. No disadvantaged white candidates were admitted through the special
5. Allan P. Bakke, a white male man, an engineer and former Marine officer, sought admission to
medical school. Bakke received 468 points out of a possible 500 on the admissions committee’s
rating scale in 1973 and had an overall GPA of 3.46.
6. He applied and was rejected twice from the regular admissions program in 1973 and 1974 because
was in his early thirties and was considered too old amidst his credentials.
7. Although minorities were admitted in both years with significantly lower academic scores
through the special program neither it affected the number of minority students to be admitted,
sixteen. There were 272 caucasians between 1971 and 1974 had applied under this
program, none had been successful.
8. After his second rejection, respondent filed this action in state court to compel his admission to
Davis, alleging that the special admissions program operated to exclude him on the
basis of his race in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment, which provides, that no person shall on the ground of race or color be
excluded from participating in any program receiving federal financial assistance or the
equal protection of the laws.
9. The university argued that their system of admission preferences helped counter the effects of
discrimination in society.
10. The Superior Court of Yolo County, California agreed with Bakke. It said that the special admissions
program violated the federal and state constitutions and was therefore illegal. The Court said that a
person's race could not be considered when the University decides whom to admit.
11. The University of California and Bakke both appealed the case to the Supreme Court of
California. This court also declared the special admissions policy unconstitutional and said that
Bakke had to be admitted to the medical school. The Regents of the University of California then
appealed the case to the Supreme Court of the United States.
ISSUE: WON the special admissions program is unconstitutional or violative of the equal protection
HELD: Yes, Bakke was ordered admitted to U.C.-Davis Medical School, and the school's practice of
reserving 16 seats for minority students was struck down. Judgment of the Supreme Court of California
reversed insofar as it forbade the university from taking race into account in admissions.
1. The Court determined that any racial quota system in a state supported university violated both the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
2. Although race may be a factor in determining admission to public educational institutions, it may
not be a sole determining factor.
3. Court ruled that specified percentage of spaces in the class reserved for a particular racial or ethnic
group, were always unconstitutional, regardless of the justifications offered for them. Because a
certain number of seats were reserved for applicants of a particular racial group,
applicants not within that racial group could not compete for those seats, no matter
how qualified they were.
4. However, Justice Powell further concluded that even though admissions systems relying solely on
racial quotas violate the Constitution, the Constitution does not prohibit any consideration of

along with these other factors rather than as the determinative element.race in admissions decisions. In order to use race as an element in making admissions decisions. . a state university must be able to justify the use under the standard of strict scrutiny. The Court found that UC Davis’s admissions policy was not narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest. 5. 6. 7. These interests included increasing the racial diversity of the student body to increase the proportion of minorities in medical schools and in medical professions. This means that admissions programs that consider race must be narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest in order to be constitutional. Basing admissions decisions solely on race. Race can only be considered a “plus factor” in a particular applicant’s file. was not an effective way of furthering their interest in a diverse student body. He acknowledged that a state may have legitimate interests in considering the race of an applicant during the admissions process. as in UC Davis’s quota system.