In this paper, Professor Lee argues that the diversity rationale the Supreme Court articulated in Grutter v. Bollinger encompassed two different sorts of "educational benefits" arising from different conceptions of the compelling state interest in student body diversity. First, "discourse" benefits accrue from the exchange of diverse viewpoints and experiences on campus. Such benefits may have lasting effects in life beyond school. Second, society at large realizes “leadership benefits” when minority graduates of top universities assume leadership positions in nationally important non-educational institutions. From this perspective, the presence of a diverse student body at an educational unit is important not so much for the discourse on campus, but because the school serves as a “gatekeeper” to nationally sensitive leadership. The leadership-benefit concept of student-body diversity was notably advanced by an amicus brief in Grutter filed by retired military officers.
Professor Lee suggests that there is marked variation in the extent to which higher educational institutions seek to, and in fact, confer these two sorts of benefits. Accordingly, the compelling interest test as formulated in Grutter should, by its own terms, take account of this variation in mission and causation, with the logical consequence that student body diversity might not suffice as a compelling government interest in every single higher educational context. Liberal-arts colleges represent the strongest case for the discourse benefits of student body diversity. The selective military academies represent the strongest case for the gate-keeping leadership benefits of student body diversity, although graduate and professional schools in today's America, where graduate education is an increasingly important credential for leadership, can also assert a strong case for leadership benefits. The proliferation of graduate education simultaneously detracts from the claim to leadership benefits of undergraduate institutions, and to the extent that a discourse-only rationale for diversity is troubling to members of the Court and the public at large, suggests an unsteady future for race-conscious policies at four-year college and university programs.
Date of Authorship for this Version
diversity, "educational benefits", "leadership benefits", discourse, "race-conscious policies"
Lee, Thomas H., "University Dons and Warrior Chieftains: Two Concepts of Diversity" (2003). Fordham Law Faculty Colloquium Papers. Paper 4.