Module Teaching Notes
This module focuses squarely on diversity in the workplace, and on affirmative action policies. Your
opening lecture should focus on Supreme Court opinions (and lower court rulings, if you wish) that deal with
The Supremes first took up affirmative action in the Regents v. Bakke case outlined in the textbook. Two
basic points came out of that decision:
1. “Quota” –type affirmative action policies were unacceptable. The University of California, in the 1970s,
had an admissions policy for its medical schools that set aside 16% of seats for applicants from
underrepresented minority groups. Bakke (a white applicant) argued that he should have been eligible for
all 100% of the seats, and not just 84% of them. Five Justices agreed. Justice Powell in particular
expressed reluctance to accept set asides or quotas.
2. Other types of affirmative action policies (non-quota systems) were acceptable. So long as race (or
another factor) is considered alongside others – perhaps MCAT scores, college GPA, personal interview,
written essay, etc. – then policies that sought to diversify an entering class did not violate the law.
The most recent significant Supreme Court ruling (Grutter v. Bollinger, from 2003) did not significantly
deviate from the Bakke reasoning. In that case, the Court allowed for the University of Michigan to continue
to use race as an admissions standard so long as it was one factor among many under consideration. A
system that awarded points based upon race and no other factor was rejected.
If you want to, you might lecture on the idea that conservative Justices tend to vote limit affirmative action
programs, while liberal Justices do not. There is no indication that the current group of 9 Justices will
change their stance on affirmative action, and since President Obama would nominate any new Justices, no
changes are likely at least through 2012. Hypothetically, if a Republican won the White House in 2012, and
if liberal Justices retired/passed away afterwards, a shift to the right on the Court might bring about
significant legal changes surrounding diversity policies.
The scenario in this module presents a company that has a history of discrimination, and also that has a
workforce that includes fewer minority employees that the population as a whole.
Students are sometimes passionate about this issue. It is important to discuss, because most large
organizations have diversity policies. But you should be vigilant and strive to keep the discussion civil and