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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the principles of affirmative action today, ruling that race can be used as a factor in college admissions.

The Court ruled that the University of Michigan Law School's "narrowly tailored use of race in admissions" to promote diversity does not violate the 14th Amendment.

However, the Court struck down the university's undergraduate admissions program, which awards points to applicants who are underrepresented minorities.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor delivered the Court's opinion in the law school case, Grutter v. Bollinger, writing that the school's "program is flexible enough to ensure that each applicant is evaluated as an individual and not in a way that makes race or ethnicity the defining feature of the application."

Chief Justice William Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the Court in the undergraduate case, Gratz v. Bollinger, writing that the undergraduate school's "admissions guidelines for 1995 through 1998 operated as the functional equivalent of a quota running afoul of Justice Powell's Bakke opinion," the Court's 1978 ruling that outlawed quotas but supported affirmative action.

The Court was divided in both cases. The Court upheld the law school program 5 to 4, with Justices Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas dissenting. It ruled the undergraduate program unconstitutional 6 to 3, with Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting.

"We are enormously pleased that the Supreme Court recognized the importance of diversity on campus and appears to have written a decision that upholds our ability to take race into account in our admissions process," University President Judith Rodin wrote in a statement. "The decision is lengthy and complex and we will need time to study it carefully to determine its precise impact on our programs."

Penn and Law School Dean Michael Fitts filed "friend of the court" briefs in February, supporting Michigan's use of race in admissions.

"America has the finest system of higher education, [giving] students an opportunity to learn together," University of Michigan attorney Maureen Mahoney said following the decision. "What the Court has really said is those institutions can continue to do the work they're doing."

Three University of Michigan undergraduates were stationed outside the Court to voice their disapproval of the rulings.

Touting a sign which read "Racism Upheld," rising Michigan senior Adam Dancy said: "That's what the Supreme Court did today ... they upheld institutional racism."

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