U-M attorney tells Washtenaw YAD about diversity decision.
Special to the Jewish News
arvin Krislov, vice presi-
dent and general coun-
sel of the University of
Michigan, proved affir-
mative action is still a hot topic when
he drew a crowd of 75 to hear about
U-M's U.S. Supreme Court case and
the university's new admissions policy.
The Young Adult Division (YAD)
steering committee of the Jewish
Federation of Washtenaw County
sponsored the event Sept. 10 at
the Jewish Community Center
of Washtenaw County.
Krislov is responsible for the
university's legal affairs. He
played an integral role in the
recent Supreme Court cases
involving U-M, which upheld
the right to consider race as one
factor among many in the
admissions process. But the
court struck down the use of a
point system in the undergrad-
Greg Epstein, a Washtenaw
County assistant prosecutor
who helped plan the YAD
event, went to the U-M law school
around the time the cases were filed in
1997. "I know law students are going
to be studying these cases for years,"
he said. "Obviously, I'm interested in
what happens in my school."
Krislov, who also co-chaired the
Federation's annual campaign for the
past two years, told the audience that
the Supreme Court's ruling was the
most significant ruling on race rela-
tions in 25 years because the court
accepted for the first time the notion
that diversity was a compelling inter-
est," Krislov said.
In a detailed and comprehensive
speech that Krislov acknowledged
might be more comprehendible to
lawyers than the general public,
Krislov profiled the history of affirma-
tive action and the background behind
the two U-M cases — law school and
undergraduate. He also talked about
the new undergraduate admissions
One question U-M needed to prove
to the Supreme Court was that there
was a compelling interest to have
diversity on campus. The second was
whether the consideration of race was
narrowly tailored enough, Krislov said.
"There was very strong and unam-
biguous support that diversity brings
profound educational benefit and is
strong enough to justify the use of
racial preferences," Krislov said.
U-M was less successful at proving
its consideration of race was constitu-
tional. The court upheld the law
school's admission process, but struck
down the undergraduate's use of a
point system that automatically
Marvin Krislov with Ann Arbor YAD
steering committee members Liora
Rosen, chairman Brian Bernhardt and
assigned points to certain minority
The point system was used as a way
of screening the applicants at a very
competitive institution, Krislov said.
There are approximately 25,000 appli-
cants for 5,000 slots in the undergrad-
uate college and 5,200 applicants for
250 available spaces in the law school.
The new process gets away from
mechanized consideration of race,
Krislov explained. It has no points and
requires admissions counselors to more
thoroughly scour applications. It will
be more expensive because the less
mechanized screening process requires
more readers to review application
essays. But academic performance still
will remain the most important quali-
During Krislov's speech, a woman in
the audience commented about how
proud she was "as a Jewish person."
When one minority doesn't have equal
rights, she said, everyone suffers.
The way the Jewish community react-
ed to these cases represented a "big
historic change from what the Jewish
organizations did in 1978," Krislov
said, noting that affirmative action has
historically been associated with quo-
tas, which used to keep the numbers
of Jewish attendees down, especially in
Ivy League schools.
"In 1978, the Jewish community
was against the consideration of
race and ethnicity — against
quotas. By 2003, the leadership
in the Jewish community had
accepted that race is a concern
among many," Krislov said.
Jewish organizations filed two
briefs with the Supreme Court:
the American Jewish
Committee (representing seven
individual Jewish organizations)
filed a brief in support of the
university, and the Anti-
Defamation League filed an
officially neutral brief Krislov
played an active role in solicit-
ing the support of Jewish
One audience member asked
whether the plaintiffs in the under-
graduate case would be entitled to any
"We would agree that they won the
battle," Krislov said, but he refused to
comment on monetary specifics. To
collect compensation, plaintiffs must
show they would have been admitted
under a more constitutional system,
and they must demonstrate damages.
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The YAD event drew about half of its
audience from people aged 25-40, its
target audience. Older people made up
the other half.
"This is a very important issue," said
Jonathan Trobe, Federation Campaign
co-chair. "Marvin was really behind a
lot of the crafting of the U-M position
on all this ... This is the horse's
mouth." I I
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