Supreme Court Takes On Michigan College Affirmative-Action Ban

Monday, 14 Oct 2013 03:41 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear arguments about whether Michigan must end using affirmative action in college admissions, 10 years after it ruled that the University of Michigan could give minority applicants preferential treatment.

The hearing will involve a 2006 voter initiative that bars Michigan's state colleges from using affirmative action, which the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year said was unconstitutional because schools continued to allow favored treatment for other groups such as alumni or donors, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said last week said the only thing the state is "discriminating against is discrimination," and while racial diversity is admirable, the state wants to "achieve this goal by constitutional means, not by any means necessary."

But the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary — which challenged the proposal shortly after it was passed — says the law was made so champions of "white privilege” can “wield [it] whenever and wherever a university admits what the opponents believe are too many minority students.”

“We don’t believe in the colorblind Constitution,” the coalition’s attorney, George B. Washington, said. “We’re making what we think is a straightforward defense of the rights of black and Latino young people" to seek admissions preferences.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund have filed their own challenges, and the Supreme Court on Tuesday will divide arguments between the ACLU and Washington's group.

ACLU attorney Mark Rosenbaum says the law is unconstitutional because it removed the debate over affirmative action from politicians and focuses it on race, not ending affirmative action.

A ruling against the affirmative action ban also could hinder other similar voter-approved initiatives in California and Washington, The Associated Press reported Monday. The law already has affected black enrollment at Michigan's state universities, with the number of minority freshmen dropping at the University of Michigan from 6.1 percent in 2006 to 4.4 percent in 2012 and at Michigan State University to 6.2 percent from 8.8 percent.

At Michigan State, applications no longer asks about race, but instead ask about life circumstances, said admissions director James Cotter.

Related Stories:

Supreme Court Takes Challenge to Affirmative Action Ban

Supreme Court Ducks Major Ruling on Affirmative Action

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