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Regents of the University of California v. Bakke

On June 28, 1978, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a lower court decision requiring the University of California to admit Allan P. Bakke to its medical school at Davis.

Demonstrators protest the Bakke decision in Washington, D.C.
protesting the Bakke decision

Allan P. Bakke, a 38-year-old white man, had twice applied for admission to the University of California Medical School at Davis, and had been rejected both times. The school'sminority admission program stipulated that 16 of 100 first-year openings be reserved for minorities, even if their test scores were lower than those of others whose applications were rejected. Bakke's qualifications (college GPA and test scores) exceeded those of any of the minority students admitted in the two years his applications were rejected. Bakke contended, first in the California courts, then in the Supreme Court, that he was excluded from admission solely on the basis of race.

The Supreme Court of California ruled that the special admissions program discriminated on the basis of race and therefore violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Four of the Supreme Court Justices contended that any racial quota system supported by government violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., agreed and cast the deciding vote, but argued that the rigid use of racial quotas as employed at the school violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In a second 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that race could be used as a factor in admission to institutions of higher learning. Powell was the deciding vote in this decision as well.

Bakke attends his first class at the University of California Medical School, in September 1978.
Bakke attends his first class

The Oyez Project

Lewis F. Powell, Jr.

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This page was last updated on 08/13/2017.