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Discriminated Based On Skin Color?

As a landmark civil rights case is being heard by the Supreme Court, several of the principal spoke Tuesday morning on The Early Show.

Plaintiff Jennifer Gratz said she thought she "was treated unfairly" by the school. "And I think that race played a factor in that," she said.

Plaintiff Barbara Grutter, who was denied admission to the Michigan Law School in June of 1997, also thinks the University of Michigan denied her because of her skin color. That decision kept her from studying law, she said.

"I am tied to the Detroit area. I have two children, and our sole income comes from that area. I didn't have the option, really, of leaving that area and going elsewhere," she said. "nd I had a very specific interest in health law. And I needed a university, a law school that would provide strength in health law."

Their attorney Larry Purdy said he has a simple goal to present at the Supreme Court: "To make Michigan live up to the promises that it includes in all of the bulletins that it sends out to its prospective students, its current students, its faculty. It's the promise that no person will be discriminated against based on race or ethnicity when it comes to admission."

Marvin Krislov, the vice president and general council of the University of Michigan, defended the university's admissions process as "a complicated one that takes into account many different factors.

"Among those factors are primarily the academic credentials of the applicants, grades, test scores," he said. "But we also look at a variety of other factors that contribute to an exciting, vibrant campus, and one of those factors is geography, one of them is people's backgrounds, people's talents, people's interests, challenges people have faced. And, yes, we also consider race and ethnicity as one factor among many."

Krislov noted there is really no other way to achieve racial diversity without taking race into account in the admissions process.

"There really is no effective substitute for affirmative action. And that's why our university and most other universities in this country do it. And that's because it's important to have a diverse group of students on campus," he said.