Affirmative action is back in Michigan.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati struck down Michigan’s Proposal 2–which bans considering race in the college admissions process–as unconstitutional. The court ruled that it creates an unequal political process for individuals who seek to urge universities to consider race as one of several factors.
Back in July of 2011, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit struck down Proposal 2 as well, saying it violated the Equal Protection Clause. However, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the full court to convene and reconsider the panel’s position. He’s not happy with the result and expressed his displeasure immediately after the ruling.
Schuette said that Proposal 2 embodied “the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law. Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit. We are prepared to take the fight for quality, fairness and the rule of law to the U.S. Supreme Court.”
American Civil Liberties Union Attorney and University of Michigan professor Mark Rosenbaum felt differently.
“Today’s landmark decision reaffirms the cornerstone principle of our democracy–that the political process must be open to all Americans,” said Rosenbaum in a statement. “It restores the argument that race is not to be disadvantaged when universities seek to enroll a diverse student body. Somewhere, Lincoln and Dr. King are smiling.”
Michigan’s ACLU filed a lawsuit along with the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP immediately after the ratification of the state constitutional amendment in 2006. According to the ACLU, since Proposal 2 went into effect, the University of Michigan reports that the number of African-Americans enrolled as freshmen declined nearly 15 percent from 2006 to 2010. In addition, from 2006 to 2011, African-American enrollment at the university’s law school dropped by 28 percent.
However, Dennis Parker, director of the National ACLU Racial Justice Program, said that this isn’t about achieving equal results or even making the playing field fair.
“This is not about leveling the playing field; it’s about getting on the playing field,” said Parker in a statement. “This is about allowing all individuals to have a voice in the admissions process. The full appeals court has recognized that racial identity cannot be meaningless or irrelevant in our admissions process.”
But tell that to Jennifer Gratz, the white plaintiff who originally challenged the University of Michigan’s admissions policy back in 2003. She took to her Facebook page to react to the court’s ruling.
“The court has given me a clear mission: I must re-engage in the fight to guarantee fair and equal treatment for all,” she said. “The court has no right to overturn the will of the people and decide that equality is unconstitutional.”
Along with Gratz, Ward Connerly, a Black businessman and former University of California regent, has been at the forefront of the anti-
affirmative action movement for two decades. He’s sponsored initiatives that have passed in California, Washington, Nebraska, Arizona and Oklahoma between 1996 and 2012. In 2008, voters in Colorado rejected his initiative.