It was nearly 40 years ago when a fractured U.S. Supreme Court was searching for an acceptable and lawful way to take race and ethnicity into account in college admissions. The court majority viewed as unconstitutional a system that would set aside a specific number of seats for one racial group or another. But justices also wanted to enable colleges to take steps they might deem necessary to attain a racially diverse student body.
How to do that? Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. turned to the nation’s oldest college for answers.