The Gist: The University of Michigan ranked applicants on a point system. To increase student diversity, the point system included an automatic 20 point bonus if the applicant was a minority. Two bitter white students who were denied admission filed suit against the school, alleging that the school's point system was a violation of the equal protection clause and the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court agreed.
Under the law, the government must have a compelling interest to regulate any given matter, and the policy in question must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. The Supreme Court found that although public universities had a compelling state interest in having a diverse student body, a point system that automatically awarded students based solely on race was not narrowly tailored enough to achieve that interest. While race could be considered as a part of an individual application, it could not be a sole or contributing factor for admission.
Interestingly, Jennifer Gratz, one of the two white students who filed the lawsuit, had been denied admission before U of M had even established the point system. In other words, the point system played no role in her denial because it had not yet existed.