The Gist: The University of Michigan Law School used race as one of many factors in evaluating applicants. A white applicant who was denied admission sued, claiming the use of race as a factor was discrimination that violated her Fourteenth Amendment and Civil Rights. The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling the school had a compelling government interest in having a diverse student body.
To regulate any matter, the government must have a compelling interest and the policy it implements must be narrowly tailored to achieve that interest. Many Supreme Court decisions have held that policies providing and advantage to minorities in order to create more balance and diversity were unconstitutional because the policy was not narrowly tailored enough (For example, Parents Involved v. Seattle School District, Gratz v. Bollinger). In those cases, however, the policies often made race the only factor, a primary factor or a part of a quota system.
Here, the Supreme Court ruled that a diverse student body in higher education was a compelling government interest and that using race as one of several factors to evaluate applicants was narrowly tailored enough to achieve that interest. The Court distinguished this case from the others by noting the policy used race as only one of many factors (it was not the only factor) and did not use a quota system.