Date of Award

5-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Major Professor

Otis H. Stephens

Committee Members

John M. Scheb, Patricia K. Freeland, Joy T. DeSensi

Abstract

This study represents an analysis of the public policy mandated in Grutter v. Bollinger and the public policies and procedures administered through Geier v. Bredesen at professional schools in the State of Tennessee. To gather information and ensure objectivity, a multiple information-gathering approach was used, which included administering a written questionnaire, reviewing court documents, conducting elite interviews, and participating in various University of Tennessee-based committees. Both Grutter and Geier used affirmative action policies to help achieve student body diversity in public higher education institutions. Grutter used affirmative action as a voluntary means to support the argument that diversity is a compelling governmental interest. Diversity included, but was not limited to, racial diversity. In Geier, Tennessee professional higher educational institutions were court-ordered to use affirmative action policies to remove the legacy of de jure segregation. In Geier, diversity was the desired goal but was limited primarily to racial diversity of two racial groups, Blacks and Whites. Through the admissions processes they examined, Grutter and Geier dealt with both applications of affirmative action policies—non-remedial (diversity) and remedial (correcting past discrimination). In 2003, the Grutter case became the national standard for all colleges and universities, public and private, in the use of race-conscious admissions policies in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs. In 2006, a Final Order of Dismissal was issued on the Geier lawsuit. As a result, public higher education institutions in the State of Tennessee must now abide by the standard laid out in Grutter.

The central question posed in this study was whether Geier’s admissions policies comply with the current Grutter standard. The findings indicate that, as originally written and applied, Geier admissions policies do not meet the current Grutter standard. Under Geier, race was the only type of diversity sought, and race was limited only to Blacks and Whites. Therefore, Geier, as originally written, is not narrowly tailored and does not pass the strict scrutiny test.

Under Geier, much progress was made to increase student body diversity, particularly of historically underrepresented groups. As Tennessee moves into the post- Geier era, administrators of the state public colleges and universities continue to assert that diversity is a compelling governmental interest. Future efforts must demonstrate the ability to maintain the progress made under Geier while complying with the Grutter standards. This must be done while recognizing that Grutter, the current law of the land, is still being scrutinized and challenged.

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