The Law School’s educational judgment that such diversity is essential to its educational mission is one to which we defer. The Law School’s assessment that diversity will, in fact, yield educational benefits is substantiated by respondents and their amici. Our scrutiny of the interest asserted by the Law School is no less strict for taking into account complex educational judgments in an area that lies primarily within the expertise of the univer- sity. Our holding today is in keeping with our tradition of giving a degree of deference to a university’s academic decisions, within constitutionally prescribed limits. . . .
As part of its goal of “assembling a class that is both exceptionally aca- demically qualified and broadly diverse,” the Law School seeks to “enroll a ‘critical mass’ of minority students.” The Law School’s interest is not simply “to assure within its student body some specified percentage of a particular group merely because of its race or ethnic origin.” That would amount to outright racial balancing, which is patently unconstitutional. Rather, the Law School’s concept of critical mass is defined by reference to the educa- tional benefits that diversity is designed to produce.
These benefits are substantial. As the District Court emphasized, the Law School’s admissions policy promotes “cross-racial understanding,” helps to break down racial stereotypes, and “enables [students] to better understand persons of different races.” These benefits are “important and laudable,” be- cause “classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited, and simply more en- lightening and interesting” when the students have “the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.” . . .