Affirmative Action
3:00 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

Court strikes down Michigan's ban on using race or gender in college admissions

Update 3:00 p.m.

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights released a statement supporting the opinion of the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court struck down the Michigan constitutional ban using race or gender in university admissions decisions.

From their statement:

We believe the question of who comprises a student body is best made at the academic rather than the political level. A university’s primary responsibility is the academic interests of those students who are admitted and preparing those students for the future. This decision removes the handcuffs that prevented Michigan’s public universities from making decisions based upon those factors they believed to be in the best interests of the entire student body and the institutions as a whole.

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, an advocacy group that worked to preserve affirmative action in Michigan, also praised today's court ruling.

From their statement:

The Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion today applauded the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision striking down Michigan's anti-affirmative action constitutional amendment, with CEO and President Thomas Costello calling the decision "a clear win for access, opportunity and equity for all."

The court noted that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, known as the "equal protection" clause, is more than just words. "It is also an assurance that the majority may not manipulate the channels of change in a manner that places unique burdens on issues of importance to racial minorities."

2:30 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody interviewed Jennifer Gratz, the director of state initiatives for the American Civil Rights Coalition.

In 2006, Gratz was the executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative which became known as "Proposal 2" once it was put on the ballot. Proposal 2 passed and it amended the Michigan Constitution by banning the practice of using race or gender in college admissions.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the ban unconstitutional today.

Gratz was also a lead plaintiff in a case against the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy in admissions - a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2003 (Gratz v. Bollinger).

Here's the interview:

1:49 p.m.

Jennifer Gratz, the woman who sued the University of Michigan over its affirmative action policy in 1997, and led the 2006 campaign for Michigan's constitutional ban on using race or gender in college admissions (Proposal 2), commented on the court's decision.

From MPRN's Rick Pluta:

[Gratz] called the court’s decision "outrageous."

"I can’t imagine that this ruling will stand and I have complete faith that the attorney general will fight for the will of the people and will continue to appeal this case until the will of the people is the rule in Michigan," said Gratz.

Pluta reports that Attorney General Bill Schuette "says he is looking at the decision and he might ask the entire Sixth Circuit to review the case."

1:16 p.m.

Kelly Cunningham, a University of Michigan spokesperson, released this statement:

The university is reviewing the possible implications of the court's decision, and recognizes that there may be further legal steps as well.

In the past, the University of Michigan has been at the center of the affirmative action debate. In 2003, the university defended its affirmative action policy in a case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court (Gratz v. Bollinger). The university's policy was declared unconstitutional.

12:39 p.m.

The group that brought the lawsuit against Michigan's ban on using race or gender in college admissions, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (also known as BAMN) says "affirmative action is back on the agenda for the whole country."

This is from their statement released today:

The two to one ruling came in a suit filed by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and by 59 black, Latino/a and Native American students and prospective students. 

Shanta Driver, the National Chairperson and one of the attorneys for BAMN, said “This decision means that thousands of talented black, Latino/a, and Native American students will now have the chance to receive an education at the state’s best universities.  It is a great victory for students and for the New Civil Rights Movement.”

The BAMN press release says the group also has a challenge pending in the Ninth Circuit against the California version of the same law (Proposition 209).

12:08 p.m.

Changing Gears public insight journalist, Sarah Alvarez, says that in a 2-1 decision, the sixth circuit court of appeals ruled that the method by which the ban was put in place, a state constitutional amendment, changes the political process in such a way that it violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution (in the 14th amendment).

That clause says "no State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

The court essentially said it puts an undue burden on citizens who would want to change the law.

In order to change it, they would have to pass another state constitutional amendment.

Anyone else who would want to change something about college admission policies would have many easier ways to change them. They could attempt to changes policies at the university level, or lobby their state representatives to pass a new law.

If the ban on using race or gender in university admissions had been passed into law by state legislators, the court would likely not find the ban unconstitutional.

11:44 a.m.

The federal sixth circuit court of appeals in Cincinnati has struck down Michigan's constitutional ban on using race or gender in university admissions (known as Proposal 2).

You can read the decision here.

In 2006, Michigan voters passed an amendment to the state constitution saying that "the state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

Now, a federal court says that ban violates the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The Associated Press reports:

A federal appeals court has struck down Michigan's ban on the consideration of race and gender when
enrolling students at public colleges and universities.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the court said Michigan's Proposal 2 is unconstitutional because it burdens minorities. It was approved by voters in 2006.The University of Michigan and other public schools have been forced to change admissions policies offering preferential treatment based on race and gender.

MPRN's Rick Pluta spoke with George Washington, one of the attorneys who sued to reverse the affirmative action ban. Washington cheered the appeals court decision:

“It means that thousands of Black, Latino and Native-American  students who otherwise would have been excluded will now be able to get an education at our universities, which they wouldn’t have had were it not for this decision. It’s a tremendous step forward.”

Washington says minority admissions at public universities have declined since the amendment was approved by voters in 2006.

Pluta reports that the state might challenge the decision before the entire Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Changing Gears reporter Sarah Alvarez says that in a 2-1 decision, the court ruled that the method by which the ban was put in place, a state constitutional amendment, changes the political process in such a way that places too much burden for citizens to redress their complaints.