Please note – this is neither an attack on or apologia for AA (though anticipating that views pro and con will necessarily have to be aired if only indirectly, I put it in GD to begin with).
Numerous companies have gone to the trouble of filing amicus curiae brief defending U. Michigan’s AA policies.
Now, depending on how cynical you are about corporations, you may or may not agree with the proposition that they generally are motivated mainly by immediate economic self-interest. You certainly may or may not agree with the proposition that AA has either a net neutral immediate economic effect, or a net negative economic effect in the short term, for corporations (because, e.g., AA programs typically require incremental administration/bookeeping/regulation/bureaucracy, and businesses stereotypically are anti-bureaucracy).
I’m not immediately seeing why, as a matter of economic self-interest, companies are thronging to intervene in this dispute. Maybe I’m overly cynical and the companies are spending their legal fees solely in support of principle, a principle in which they truly believe. I can see several possible alternative scenarios as well:
AA and diversity programs in corporations give a competitive edge. But this doesn’t necessarily explain the amicus filings because (a) companies, unlike universities, are not state actors and thus not governed by equal protection/due process, and so are subject to somewhat less regulation in their adoption of employment and retention policies; and (b) if there is a competitive edge from AA/diversity programs, wouldn’t companies prefer to keep this edge secret and limit its use to as few institutions as possible?
AA and diversity programs in corporations are a drag on productivity. But corporations can’t afford to be seen as anti-AA, so they oppose any move, anywhere, that would make the (currently near universal) adoption of AA programs in corporations and universities an open question once again, thus posing them the intolerable prospect of losing competitive edge by keeping (supposedly inefficient) AA programs while their peers dropped them, or losing public relations face by dropping them while some peers kept them.
Corporations are hoping to fob off the whole AA/diversity issue and its attendant political headaches on universities, so they can dodge the issue (not clear that this reflects current reality, as there don’t seem to be many corporations who don’t at least on paper adopt/administer some sort of AA/“outreach” policy – but maybe they’re trying to avert even more demands from activists (cf. J. Jackson’s Wall Street initiatives/“holdups” depending on who you ask) by saying that “equal access” issues can be and should be (and are being) handled at the educational level)?
Corporations are fearing their own programs will be subject to judicial challenge (under the Civil Rights Act), and that because they have deep pockets, they could thereafter face big potential reverse discrimination liability if AA is truly discredited, so – having embraced AA half-heartedly to avert “regular” discrimination suits – they are going to ride AA into the ground to prevent being damned from all sides?
Corporations are pandering to elite opinion/the masses by trying to appear concerned about an issue they never wanted to adopt and don’t truly care about?