UC v. Bakke

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UC v. Bakke
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided June 26, 1978
Appealed from California Supreme Court
Questioned by
Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard


In the 1970s, the medical school of the University of California systems had 2 separate admissions programs: (1) a general admission program & (2) a special admissions programs for minorities.

Every year, UC Davis School Of Medicine limited its new matriculant to 100: 84 for general applicants while 16 for special applicants.

The scores of Bakke (plaintiff) were not high enough to land him a spot as a general applicant. He was denied admissions 2 years in a row. At the same time, candidates with lower scores than Bakke were admitted into the special admissions group to work towards the same Doctor of Medicine degree at UC Davis.

Procedural History

Bakke filed a lawsuit arguing that the UC Davis's admissions policy at its school of medicine violated the EPC (Equal Protection Clause) of the 14th Amendment. Additionally, he cited the TITLE VI OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (nondiscrimination in federally assisted programs).

Bakke wins in the state trial court & the Supreme Court of California.


Subject: Affirmative Action & Reverse Discrimination

May a public university receiving federal funds constitutionally exhibit a preference for racial minorities in its admissions policy consistent with the EPC?


The School of Medicine at UC Davis contended that its special admissions program served a compelling state interest in (1) remedying past discrimination, (2) facilitating health services in under-served areas, & (3) increasing academic diversity.

Blackmun argued that race must be taken into account in order to combat racism.


Yes & no. Universities can't admit students using a racial quota. Nevertheless, race may be factored into the admissions decision.


Powell reasoned that remedying past discrimination wasn't the duty of the UC Davis School of Medicine because that school itself had never engaged in racial discrimination since its founding in 1966. Thus, according to Powell, this wasn't a compelling state interest. Brennan disagreed with Powell on this point.