Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Jewish Organizations Hail Court Ruling in Bakke Case; Say It Vindicates Their Stand Against Quotas

June 29, 1978
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Three American Jewish human rights agencies today enthusiastically welcomed the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision this morning that Allan Bakke must be admitted to the University of California Medical School at Davis from which he had been rejected because 16 places had been reserved for Blacks and other minorities. The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith all said they viewed the decision as a vindication of their stand that the imposition of quotas was unconstitutional. At the same time, they stressed that they still supported ” affirmative action” programs through legal means. Today’s long-awaited court ruling upheld a California Supreme Court decision that Bakke had been discriminated against because he is white.

At a press conference at the AJ Committee headquarters, Morris Abram, the organization’s honorary president, declared, “We who have opposed racial quotas in admission to colleges, universities and other aspects of American life, do not believe that such a decision, which outlaws such quotas, means that the skies have fallen on the disadvantaged groups in our country. We do not believe that affirmative action is dead in either law or spirit.”


Abrams stressed that racial quotas are not a good thing in America. They are not satisfactory for advancing the cause of the disadvantaged.” Samuel Rabinove, director of the AJ Committee’s legal department, said “The majority decision does not close the door to the kinds of affirmative action which we most strongly endorse.”Abrams said he did not think that the decision would create tensions between Blacks and Jews. But most Black leaders in the U.S. have criticized the decision. Vernon Jordan, head of the Urban League, was to have appeared at the AJ Committee press conference, but did not.

The AJ Congress, in a statement, said it was “gratified” by the decision. “Although we have not yet had an opportunity to review the many opinions rendered in the case, it seems clear to us that this decision does not mean the end of affirmative action programs but rather the elimination of quota systems and the use of race as the sole criterion for university admissions. We continue to support effective affirmative action programs based on economic, cultural and social disadvantages designed to provide opportunities for employment and education to those whom have been denied them.” The statement by the AJ Congress pointed out that the court has” apparently” permitted “programs that use race as one factor among many others — but not as the exclusive factor — in affirmative action programs.” The AJCongress said it looked forward “to working with other civil rights groups and all interested parties and organizations in an effort to devise effective and appropriate affirmative action programs that would help fully integrate minority communities into the mainstream of American life without imposing rigid and divisive racial criteria or the use of inflexible and stigmatizing quota systems.”


Arnold Forster, the ADL’s general counsel, said in a statement that the organization was pleased by the decision. “In finding quotas clearly illegal, the court held that race may not used as the determining factor in accepting or rejecting an applicant for admission. “But Forster did not seem pleased with Justice Lewis Powell’s opinion, one of six separate opinions given, which the ADL official noted allows race to be considered as one factor among others in determining admission. “In our view, it would seem difficult to allow race to be used as one factor without it becoming the determining factor, “Forster said.”But happily, quotas or anything that adds up to quotas are outlawed.” The ADL official noted that the fact that there are six opinions “suggests the need for careful study of the decision and the opinions before it is possible to speak out with any certitude about the impact of the ruling on the general affirmative action-reverse discrimination problem. The ADL supports affirmative action and will continue to seek legal and constitutional ways to achieve it while opposing preferential treatment based on race or religion.”

Bakke, 38, claimed he was discriminated against at the California medical school because his grades were better than the 16 minority members admitted. The court ordered him admitted this fall. There is, however, no way of telling yet what effect the court ruling will have on the various affirmative action programs. Justice Thurgood Marshall, the court’s lone Black, said,” I doubt that there is a computer capable of determining the number of persons and institutions that may be affected by the decision in this case.”

Recommended from JTA