News and Commentary
Jan. 13, 2004

News Clips about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative as of January 13, 2004

Petitions started in Detroit for affirmative action ban

Last known link to original story:

          "The passionate debate over affirmative action and racial preferences moved to the streets of Michigan on Monday with the launch of a petition drive aimed at ending use of race and gender in decisions about government hiring and contracting and university admissions. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative needs to collect 318,000 signatures in six months to qualify its proposed constitutional amendment for the November ballot. Opponents, who mounted a small but spirited demonstration outside the hotel where the campaign was launched, said they'll try to make sure that doesn't happen.

          "The campaign will be run by Jennifer Gratz, a 26-year-old Southgate, Mich., native who was a plaintiff in one of two lawsuits against the University of Michigan over the use of race in admissions decisions.
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         "... Supporters of affirmative action - including a group of business, labor, civic and religious organizations that plans its own announcement Monday in Lansing, Mich., - said they will actively discourage voters from signing petitions. And even without opposition, gathering 2,200 signatures a day for six months is formidable for the best-organized campaigns. And Gratz and her colleagues admitted Monday that their campaign isn't one of them … at least not yet. She is one of two full-time staff, along with Manager Tim O'Brien, a Detroit-area public relations consultant and political activist. They hope to collect up to a quarter of their target of 400,000 signatures with volunteers, while using paid circulators for the rest. Gratz said Monday the group wants to raise $1 million for that purpose, and another $3 million for a fall campaign.

          "Bill Ballenger, publisher of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, said Monday it is impossible to predict how this effort will fare. Although consistently supported by a strong majority of voters in polls, there's no guarantee the group has the wherewithal to get the needed signatures, he said. Very few ballot proposals have succeeded in meeting Michigan's high signature collection threshold without the backing of an existing support infrastructure, Ballenger said. But there have been a few movements that could legitimately claim to have generated their own grass roots, Ballenger said. Most notably among those were the antibusing movement of the early 1970s and the antitax recalls of a pair of state senators in 1983."

Woman who challenged affirmative action to lead ballot campaign

Last known link to original story:

          "One of the plaintiffs who challenged the University of Michigan's admissions policies has returned from California to lead the campaign to let Michigan voters decide in November whether affirmative action should stay or go in universities and other public agencies. Jennifer Gratz, who fought Michigan's undergraduate policy in a case decided by the Supreme Court, will serve as executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

          "The group wants voters to consider a state constitutional amendment to ban racial preferences at universities and other public agencies. ... "It will be divisive. It will open old wounds," retired Brig. Gen. Michael Rice, head of Citizens for a United Michigan and former deputy director of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said of the initiative. "If it passes, there will be consequences. These consequences will not be good for us."

          "... The ballot initiative is backed by the Sacramento, Calif.-based American Civil Rights Coalition. That group is led by Ward Connerly, the University of California regent who successfully pushed that state's Proposition 209 banning the consideration of race and gender in public employment, education and contracting. Organizers say they hope Connerly will return to the state to support their effort.

          "Last month, the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition forms. Supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment need to gather 317,757 signatures by July 6 for the measure to appear on the ballot. MCRI hopes to raise $4 million to fund the initiative effort, including about $1 million to collect signatures."

Campaign begins for ballot initiative

Last known link to original story:

          "Led by a familiar opponent of the University’s race-conscious admissions programs, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative announced yesterday the beginning of its campaign to ban the use of racial preferences in college admissions. “No one should be discriminated against on the basis of gender, religion, skin color,or national origin,” said Jennifer Gratz, who sued the University after she was denied admission to the College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Gratz will also serve as executive director of the MCRI campaign.

          "Gratz and Barbara Grutter, a member of the MCRI, were among the first to sign the petition. Grutter sued after being denied admission to the University’s Law School. ... At the press conference kicking off the campaign, Gratz and MCRI Campaign Manager Tim O’Brien reaffirmed their support for affirmative action.

          "O’Brien said the original purpose of affirmative action was to assist talented students in poor communities. He said the intention was not to change college admissions standards. Fundamental to the different interpretations of affirmative action is a belief in how to achieve equality.

          "MCRI asserted that merit and ability should be the standard for college admissions — not race. “I believe affirmative action is about giving equality … giving people access” without discrimination, Gratz said. But protesters before the event confronted MCRI members about their controversial claims to be supporters of affirmative action. “This ballot initiative is a conscious attempt to defraud and deceive the Michigan voters. Its aim is to ban all affirmative action in Michigan and nullify the Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger,” said National BAMN Co-Chair Luke Massie. BAMN and other activists counter that race-conscious admissions are necessary for equality. ... Polls indicate that over half of Michigan’s voters oppose racial preferences. And students are part of the largest group that approve of banning racial preferences in higher education, said Gratz. “Most support comes from young voters” according to a recent poll, she said.

          "But opposition from the Democratic and Republican parties may prove to be an obstacle for MCRI. Despite the presence of three republican state representatives at the event yesterday, prominent members of the Michigan Republican Party, such as GOP Chair Betsy DeVos, view MCRI as a threat to stability. MCRI Co-Chair and State Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Twp) said Connerly will be an advisor to the MCRI. “Ward’s national organization is an important source of advice. No one is more experienced,” Drolet said. The first person to sign the MCRI petition was University philosophy Prof. and MCRI member Carl Cohen, who encouraged Gratz to bring a lawsuit against the University."

Affirmative action backers, foes clash

Last known link to original story:

          "Opponents and supporters of a campaign to ban affirmative action in Michigan exchanged words and shouts before a news conference on the issue Monday, signaling what could be months of angry debate to come. The Rev. Horace Sheffield III, a civil rights activist, and Gregory Creswell, a Detroit organizer for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, clashed after the group refused to allow Sheffield into its news conference at a suburban Detroit hotel. The group was kicking off its petition drive to get the affirmative action issue before Michigan voters in November.

          “This is about denying people who should have the same opportunity to receive equal treatment and equal benefits as anyone else in this country from having those,” said Sheffield, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, headed by the Rev. Al Sharpton. “It is being cloaked under the guise of equal protection under the law. It’s racist, it’s exclusionary, it’s divisive. And the very fact that they would allow only certain people to come in here is indicative about what this thing is all about.”

          "But state Rep. Leon Drolet, a Macomb County Republican and MCRI’s co-chairman, said giving special treatment to individuals based on skin color and gender is wrong. Drolet was joined Monday by a dozen supporters to kick off the petition drive to place a measure on the November ballot asking Michigan citizens to decide if race or gender should play a role in state and local government hiring and college admissions. “This is not about affirmative action,” Drolet said.  “We don’t oppose affirmative action. We oppose the government essentially assigning characteristics to people and assigning benefits or lack thereof based upon their appearance, their gender, their national origin, essentially their background.”"

News clips courtesy of AADAP.ORG

Recommended Additional Reading:

Definition:  Affirmative Action

Definition:  Diversity

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