Michigan Voters approve measure to end Racial Discrimination in college admissions

Michigan Voters approved by a margin of 58% to 42% a measure that would eliminate the use of race as a factor in determining college admissions.  Achieving racial diversity in institutions of public education is a noble goal. How we go about meeting that goal however is just as important. Giving preference to any racial group in attempting to achieve diversity is discriminatory.  It is sort of like attempting to end discrimination by discrimination. It does not make a whole hell of a lot of sense. A far better method of working toward greater diversity would be to replace race as a determining factor with the socioeconomic background of the applicant and the applicants family.

When any entity, public or private, utilize race as a factor in determining who gets employment oppertunities, acceptance in educational institutions, or membership in social or professional organizations they are practicing discrimination. It doesn’t matter if those being discriminated against are black, white, brown, or green.  Racial discrimination is wrong, and the absolute least we should expect from our government institutions is to end the discriminatory practices especially in education.           

From the Wall Street Journal 

In 2003, when the Supreme Court upheld affirmative action in college admissions, many observers felt that the issue had been settled for years to come.

Think again.

Voters in Michigan, where the state university successfully fought in that Supreme Court case to preserve minority preference, repudiated it in a ballot initiative Tuesday. An initiative passed by Michigan voters will ban affirmative action in admissions to public colleges and in government hiring. Currently, the University of Michigan and other selective public institutions in the state consider race as one of many factors in admissions decisions. The ban takes effect 45 days after the vote.

Ward Connerly, the California businessman behind the Michigan initiative, yesterday said he is exploring bringing similar proposals to other states, including Illinois, Missouri and Oregon. And next month, the Supreme Court will revisit the question of race-based enrollment, this time in the context of K-12 public-school assignments.

“If we can win in Michigan, a blue state with a Democratic governor…this initiative would pass” anywhere, said Mr. Connerly, a former University of California regent who led successful campaigns to ban racial preferences in college admissions in California and Washington. “If you give the American people a chance to decide whether they want everybody treated equal regardless of race, nine times out 10 they would vote for it.”

Late yesterday, an affirmative-action group known as By Any Means Necessary filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against Gov. Jennifer Granholm claiming that the ban is unconstitutional, said the group’s attorney George B. Washington. A spokesman for the governor couldn’t be reached to comment.

Affirmative-action supporters said the initiative will reduce black and Hispanic enrollment at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and said they hope to challenge it in court. “We believe affirmative action is a positive tool for society,” University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in an interview. Depending on the court’s interpretation, she said, the initiative could stymie the university’s efforts to attract more black students overall, and more women into science and engineering programs. She said the university will seek legal permission to judge current applicants under its old criteria, which take race into account.

John C. Brittain, chief counsel of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, a Washington, group that has defended affirmative action before the Supreme Court, called the initiative “a very dangerous step that turns back the clock on civil rights.” He said he expected civil-rights lawyers to figure out ways to mount a constitutional attack on the initiative — perhaps using the language of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Michigan decision permitting affirmative action.

In its decision, the Supreme Court allowed colleges to use preferences, but didn’t require that they do so, which left room for Michigan voters to impose a ban.

Polls had indicated that the vote on the initiative would be close. But Michigan voters on Tuesday approved the measure, called Proposal 2, by a margin of 58% to 42%, with 100% of precincts reporting.

“We won in places no one ever expected we’d win,” said Doug Tietz, campaign manager for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the group that sponsored the referendum. Analysts said voters may have been reluctant to tell pollsters that they supported the initiative for fear of being tagged as racist by the state’s academic, political and business establishment, which largely opposed it.

Linda Chavez, chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a Sterling, Va., nonprofit that opposes racial preferences and campaigned for the initiative, said such initiatives are most successful in states like Michigan that have flagship public campuses where white applicants are angry about losing competitive spots.

The Michigan vote could also draw more attention to pending cases before the Supreme Court. It will hear arguments Dec. 4 on the constitutionality of using race as a factor in school assignments in Louisville, Ky., and Seattle. In both cases, white parents whose children were passed over for entry to sought-after public schools sued the school districts.

Mr. Tietz said his next target may be the college admissions preference sometimes referred to as “white affirmative action” — the edge given to children of alumni. During the campaign, he said, his group was “forceful and straightforward” in opposing so-called legacy preference, while supporters of affirmative action dodged that issue.

He said he would “work hand-in-hand” with affirmative-action supporters to end legacy preference. “My kids someday will not need a legacy boost,” said Mr. Tietz, an alumnus of the University of Michigan, which considers legacy status in admissions decisions. “I want them to work hard and earn their spot, so no one will say, ‘You got in because of your dad.'”

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