MCRI News and Commentary
Mar. 12, 2004

News Clips about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Mar. 12, 2004
(Postings for Feb. 3 thru Mar. 12)

Michigan State News Editorial: No respect (Posted 02-03-04)

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          "This is the true story of MSU College Republicans and a group of pro-affirmative action activists, picked to share a room at the Union to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting rude.

          "In a move that overstepped reasonable discourse and essentially spat on manners and maturity, about 25 pro-affirmative action protesters - from campus groups, other Michigan universities and the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN - disrupted a meeting of the College Republicans on Wednesday night.
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          "They jeered guest speaker Barbara Grutter and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to the extent that MSU police were dispatched to disperse the crowd. ... The State News has made clear its position on affirmative action and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative this semester. We support affirmative action in our state's universities, but we do not feel the issue should be placed before voters for constitutional consideration. To be sure, that is not a measure to dictate whom should be able to vote on what; we simply believe that the benefits of affirmative action can not be accurately gauged against its shortcomings when boiled down to a "yes" or "no" vote.

          "Therefore, we agree with some of the motives that BAMN and other protest groups operate under. We believe protesting is free speech, and we believe in the power of the First Amendment to exercise those rights. But there's the right way to get one's point across, and there's a wrong way.

          "Drowning out a speaker and her supporters in a confined meeting space would be the wrong way.

          "We encourage students to visit with groups on the other side of their political scope but to do so in a respectful and measured manner. The College Republicans are offended by such activism and have issued statements in the same vein of this editorial.

          "We agree with the College Republicans that the level of dialogue on campus should be limitless, but there are responsible ways to do so. Moreover, the College Republicans had not issued a representative stance on the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative at the time of the meeting. There is no winner when the power to protest and encourage debate is abused. We should embrace our freedom to do so, but remember to respect both sides of the argument.

U-M affirmative action plaintiff's speech cut short by protesters (Posted 02-26-04)

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          "A tension-filled MSU College Republicans meeting was cut short Wednesday after protesters clashed with supporters of guest speaker Barbara Grutter, a plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case against the University of Michigan Law School's racial preference practices.

          "About 25 protesters attended the meeting to challenge Grutter's support of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, an organization currently attempting to outlaw racial preferences through a state constitutional amendment.

          "Many [of the protesters] came from campus groups, other state universities and BAMN, the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action & Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary.

          "I'm very familiar with these people from the lawsuits," Grutter said. "They're professionals." When Grutter walked into the room at the start of the meeting, she was greeted with boos, hisses and picket signs with statements such as "Barb Grutter - Stop Being a Front for Racism."  While giving a brief speech, Grutter was frequently interrupted by jeers and murmurs of disapproval. Tensions continued increasing until officials from the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety were called to restore order and make sure the crowd dispersed safely.

          [Said one pro-quota supporter] "I felt compelled to come out because I wanted to address Barb Grutter," said Desiree Liwosz, an Eastern Michigan University student affiliated with BAMN. "I wanted to ask her and the College Republicans why they support the racist MCRI."  

          "The College Republicans agreed to have Grutter make an appearance because the group frequently has guest speakers at its biweekly meetings. Many members said they were not expecting backlash, especially since the group has not taken an official stance on the initiative. "I was surprised," said Erin Trussell, third vice chair for the College Republicans. "This isn't one of our issues." The group issued a statement after the meeting, saying members were "offended by the intimidating and disruptive tactics used (by) By Any Means Necessary and other student groups."

          "...Wednesday's conflict was the first clash on campus over the initiative. Some people at the meeting said the debate has mostly been centered in Ann Arbor so far, but they expected disputes will become more frequent at other universities as the petition deadline nears. "It's really crucial to make sure the MCRI doesn't make it to the ballot," said interior design senior Emily West, who came to oppose Grutter. "Things are going to start picking up definitely after this."

Wolverine Rights Michigan organizes to fight preferences.   (Posted 03-03-04)

By Ward Connerly

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          "As a regent of the University of California, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects that race preferences can have on young people. Contrary to what the proponents of "affirmative action" would lead you to believe, the issue of race preferences is not just about statistics and data, or clichés about "leveling the playing field" or providing "opportunities" for disadvantaged "minorities." Real lives are radically affected, and incalculable social and economic costs result when decisions are made about individuals based on the color of their skin or the origin of their ancestors.

          "In 1994, I immersed myself in the admissions process of the University of California. I met high-school students with bags under their eyes because they had spent all night studying for tests or writing essays to enhance their chances for admission to the UC campus of their choice. I met parents who were working two and three jobs and taking out second mortgages on their homes to ensure that their children would receive a quality college education. I read admissions applications that had taken weeks to prepare. I saw the tears on the face of a young girl with a 4.2 grade-point average and a 1480 SAT when she read the letter denying her admission to UC Berkeley. I saw the resentment of her parents when they read that same letter and reached the conclusion that the "diversity" objective mentioned in the letter was a code word for "affirmative action." When dreams of attending the college of one's choice are shattered, the effects are profound. I learned from those experiences that America will never solve its problem of race by discriminating against high-achieving Asian and white students to somehow improve college opportunities for lesser-achieving black and Hispanic students.

          "Based on what I experienced, in 1995 I convinced a majority of my colleagues on the Board of Regents to eliminate race preferences at UC. A year and a half later, that success was expanded throughout California when the voters passed the statewide ballot initiative Proposition 209 - I chaired the ballot's campaign - by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

          "In 1998, we convinced the people of the state of Washington to take similar action and to approve Initiative 200 (I-200), which they did by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. I-200 mirrored Proposition 209. Subsequent to the passage of I-200, the governor of Florida ended preferences there by adopting "One Florida" - an executive order intended to preempt the Florida Civil Rights Initiative, an initiative that we were circulating. "One Florida" has proven to be nearly the administrative equivalent of a statewide ballot initiative, although not constitutionally as significant.

          "From 1995 to the present, we have waged an effective campaign to educate the public about the differences between "affirmative action" and race preferences, urging clarity in distinguishing between the two. In one public-opinion poll after another, the American people have expressed their confirmation of our conviction that preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting are morally wrong, unfair, and violate the constitutional command of equal treatment under the law for every American, as well as the principle that individual merit should be the basis for achievement in American society.

          "With this history and background, we were justifiably optimistic that the Supreme Court of the United States would render a favorable decision when it announced its intention to hear the cases involving Barbara Grutter and Jennifer Gratz and the University of Michigan early last year. A decision in favor of the plaintiffs would shift our nation's focus from the pursuit of skin-color "diversity" to respect for individual merit and the principle of equal treatment by the government regardless of race or ethnic background.

          "Our reason for optimism was all the more reasonable when placed in the context that the Supreme Court is often described as a "conservative" court and the decisions would be rendered during an era in which there is a conservative Republican president and Republicans control both houses of Congress. Conditions were ideal for the country to make a clean break with race preferences.

          "But, as we now know, our optimism was misplaced. On June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the University of Michigan (UM) and allowed the continued use of race preferences. These horrible decisions by the Court will profoundly affect the lives of our children and grandchildren for at least the next 25 years.

          "The question for our generation is, what are we to do about these decisions? We can accept them without protest, wring our hands and complain, or actively seek to negate them wherever we can, reminding ourselves that by their actions the people of California and Washington and the governor of Florida have already exempted themselves from the Grutter/Gratz decisions.

          "For those who understand the human consequences of race preferences, the choice is clear: We must begin anew the campaign that was started with the passage of Proposition 209. The people must seize the initiative to erase the stain of racial discrimination; we cannot rely on the president, the Congress, or the Supreme Court to do it for us. Whether the victim of racial discrimination is a black person denied admission to "Ole Miss" because of skin color or a white person denied admission to the University of Michigan owing to race preferences, the injustice is no less.

          "On December 11, 2003, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved a petition that is now circulating among the people of Michigan for a statewide vote in November 2004. This "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative" (as was the case in Washington and Florida) is patterned after California's Proposition 209. If approved by the people of that state, race preferences will be prohibited in Michigan. On January 12, 2004, the campaign began to qualify MCRI for a vote of the people. Leading this effort is Jennifer Gratz, who has been hired as the executive director of the campaign.

          "Realizing what is at stake, the opponents of MCRI have enlisted support from Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, labor unions, Democratic candidates for president, and a host of others who are supplying financial assistance to prevent MCRI from reaching the ballot. Unfortunately, the Michigan Republican party has announced its opposition to MCRI, claiming that such a campaign will be "divisive."

          "What this all means is that, once again, if race preferences are to be terminated, the people will have to do so by a popular vote, and that they will receive no help from that part of the political establishment that would ordinarily be expected to participate in ending such preferences. They can also expect to face national opposition from the customary proponents of such preferences. Fortunately, public-opinion polls confirm that the people of Michigan are poised to do just that, as the most recent statewide poll reveals that, if the election were held today, MCRI would pass by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent.

          "But, in order for the people of Michigan to get the chance to vote on this initiative, MCRI must obtain nearly 460,000 signatures to qualify for the November 2004 Ballot. Jennifer Gratz, Barbara Grutter, and others in Michigan will not be able to finance this campaign alone. They urgently need outside, financial help on the national level.

          "The year 2003 was marked by court decisions that were highly unpopular with political conservatives, chief among them being the University of Michigan cases. If a dollar were thrown in the kitty for every time a conservative complained about "activist" courts, we could finance the $2 million that will be needed for the campaign to enact MCRI. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative provides an opportunity for the conservative movement to take action - and not just to complain about judicial activism.

          "Based on the experiences in California and Washington State, a reasonable amount of the budget needed to gain passage of an initiative can be generated locally, but the bulk of the financing for opponents and proponents of preferences comes from out-of-state sources. The issue may be fought in one state at a time, but it is truly national in scope. That is why those of us who want to end preferences need to make the battle in Michigan our top priority in 2004.

          "Just think of what success could be obtained if thousands of supporters mobilized nationally and each sent $20 or $50. With every signature for a statewide ballot initiative typically costing about $2, a $20 contribution is the equivalent of purchasing ten signatures for the campaign. If you want to find out more about the MCRI, visit the website at This campaign holds the promise of having the people of a state that gave us the term "Reagan Democrats" overturning the action of a court that told us "diversity" is an acceptable excuse to discriminate - so long as the beneficiaries of that discrimination are of the right color."

Univ. of Michigan: DAAP party to fight civil rights ballot initiative (Posted 03-03-04)

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          "The Defend Affirmative Action Party is living up to its name during this year’s Michigan Student Assembly elections, fighting for a cause that brought the University to the national spotlight almost seven years ago. The 18 DAAP candidates running for MSA positions are hoping to garner the votes of students who have been active in the fight for [race-based] affirmative action since the University was first sued regarding its race-conscious admissions policies in the fall of 1997.

          "We’re calling on students who are part of this action to vote and continue to fight because obviously this is not over," DAAP presidential candidate Kate Stenvig said. "Right now we are fighting to defend the victory at the (U.S.) Supreme Court and particularly to face the attack of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative petition," Stenvig said. ... On the national scale, DAAP is organizing participation in a national march on Washington scheduled for May 15 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. Stenvig sees the anniversary of the decision as a pivotal event in the fight for affirmative action. "Since this is the 50th anniversary of Brown, we have the opportunity to decide which direction we’re going," Stenvig said, referring to whether the state and the country will choose to support or contest affirmative action. "If we lose affirmative action, there will be a 75 percent drop in minority enrollment. We’ve seen this in California."

Affirmative action ruling faces Michigan petition test (Posted 03-08-04)

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          "A petition to place an anti-affirmative action measure [actually, an anti-racial-preferences measure] on the Michigan ballot has found fertile ground just north of Toledo in State Rep. Matt Milosch’s District 55, which includes Whiteford, Bedford, and Erie townships.

          "The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative kicked off Jan. 12 in an effort to collect 317,000 signatures to place it on the ballot. The initiative would essentially reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that allowed the University of Michigan to continue using race as one factor in admission in its undergraduate and law schools. "We’ve had a fabulous response," said Mr. Milosch (R., Lambertville), who is on the steering committee of the initiative. "The ballots are in my office in Milan and they are available. There has certainly been an emotional response." Mr. Milosch said when he placed a "racial preference" question in his newsletter this summer, 94 percent of 700 people responding to it said they were against racial preferences.

          [Mr. Milosch said] "Knowing my district, I knew it wasn’t going to be 50-50, but the 94 percent did surprise me," he said.

          "According to the 2000 U.S. census, more than 95 percent of the three townships’ 37,876 residents are white.

          "Tim O’Brien, a spokesman for the initiative, said he’s having a hard time keeping up with petition requests from his Southgate office. Dave Waymire, though, said opponents of the initiative are signing up with Citizens for a United Michigan every day and have the hearts of mainstream Michigan residents. ... Mr. Waymire said the passage of such a ballot initiative could mean the end of programs and other [race-based and quota-based] efforts designed to aid minorities and women in the academic arena and beyond after generations of discrimination.

          "He said the Detroit Area Chamber of Commerce agreed last week to fight the ballot measure. He said about 70 organizations have signed on to support affirmative action. Mr. Waymire said his group tells organizations they must preach this effort to members.

          [Mr. Waymire said] "These leaders know best how to talk to their memberships," said Mr. Waymire, a spokesman for Citizens for a United Michigan. "What we also want to do is educate the public so they realize what they are signing. They hear the words ‘civil rights’ and think they are signing something for [racial preferences and race-based, quota-based] affirmative action."

          "David Hecker, president of the Michigan Federation of Teachers and School Related Personnel, said labor unions have a vested interest in a diverse workplace and will aggressively fight the measure. "This proposal will affect many aspects of Michigan life with unintended consequences," Mr. Hecker said. "How will it affect scholarships given by ethnic groups around the state? How will it affect the schools, police, and fire departments that are trying to encourage increased diversity by all ethnic groups?"

Diversity: Changing the subject (03-08-04)

-- By J. David Velleman Department of Philosophy

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          "In a recent speech to a "diversity summit," U-M President Mary Sue Coleman exhorted the University community to take a "great leap forward" in our commitment to diversity (University Record, Feb. 16). "We have been the center of national attention on this issue as we defended our two admissions lawsuits," she said, "but now we must turn our focus and energy inward." In particular, the president said, "We must do better on the issue of campus climate. We must establish a climate that welcomes and celebrates our diversity in our classrooms, in our services, our laboratories and every setting, day and night."

          "I do not know what it would be to celebrate diversity in every setting, day and night. But I believe that in exhorting us to "turn inward," the president is also subtly changing the subject. The theme of the University's case for affirmative action was the importance of being a diverse community. The theme of the president's recent speech, however, is the importance of being unanimous about the value of diversity. It's no longer enough for us to be diverse; we must now express a particular attitude toward diversity wherever we go, around the clock.

          "Unanimity was conspicuous at the diversity summit, where five executive officers of the University took turns speaking to the participants about the importance of diversity. In any normal academic gathering, five speakers addressing the same topic would find some grounds for disagreement or debate. The convergence of opinion among the speakers at the summit should not have surprised anyone, however, since this particular gathering was obviously not an occasion for critical inquiry. The diversity summit was not a conference or symposium or colloquium or any other recognizable kind of academic event. Indeed, it was not even a summit, which is typically a meeting of rivals or opponents. It was more like a caucus, a gathering of the party faithful-a setting where the emphasis would naturally shift from diversity as a fact to diversity as an ideology.

          "Hints of this shift appeared almost immediately after the Supreme Court decision on affirmative action was handed down. In a revised application form, developed in response to the Court's decision, the University chose to require all applicants to answer one of the following two essay questions:

1. At the University of Michigan, we are committed to developing an academically superb and widely diverse educational community. What would you as an individual bring to our campus community?

2. Describe an experience you've had where cultural diversity-or a lack thereof-has made a difference to you.

          "Although the second question alludes to cultural diversity, the first question prompts applicants to recall that this University has waged a public campaign for diversity in terms of race, which white applicants cannot claim to enhance. And when these applicants turn to the second question, they face a test of their opinions on diversity-a test in the sense that there is a right answer, as indicated by the preamble to the first question. This sequence of questions thus changes the subject in the way that I have described, from an applicant's potential to diversify the student body to his participation in a presumed consensus about diversity.

          "Fears that the second question is a test of political correctness were confirmed by a Newsweek cover story on President Coleman's campaign for diversity (Dec. 29, 2003, p. 78). The story spoke of the new application as follows:

"One of the four new essay questions challenges all students to explain how they would contribute to campus diversity. A boy from Michigan's mostly white Upper Peninsula wrote of the tolerance lessons he learned helping his sister come out as a lesbian. Says Coleman: 'Those are the kinds of kids we want.'"

          "This student was admitted, it seems, not because he would make the community more diverse, but because he is tolerant of diversity in sexual orientation-or, at least, is willing to say so when asked to show his diversity credentials. Most universities ask an applicant to identify his ideals and explain how he hopes to realize them through higher education; at Michigan, we tell the applicant our ideals and ask that he pledge allegiance to them.

          "Of course diversity is a good thing. I believe that it is sufficiently important to justify the consideration of race in undergraduate admissions, at least in principle. But there are many goods in an academic community, and some of them are far more important than diversity. Access to information, freedom of expression, respect for reason and evidence, sources of inspiration and innovation-goods such as these are essential to a university. Without them, no institution can rightly claim to be a university at all. Diversity enhances the educational benefits derived from these goods, but it is ancillary to them, not essential. Although a university is generally worse if its members are not diverse, it doesn't thereby cease to qualify as a university. And it jeopardizes values more important than diversity if it pressures its members, or its applicants for admission, to salute the flag of diversity, grand as that flag may be.

          "I agree with President Coleman that our campus climate is not as it should be, but I disagree with her about what is wrong. We do not need more celebrations of diversity. On the contrary, the University administration has exaggerated the value of diversity, and we need dissenting voices to pull the community back from what threatens to become an unhealthy fixation. Unfortunately, the U-M administration has discouraged dissent on this subject, and the resulting lack of open discussion is precisely what is wrong with our climate. The inward turn that President Coleman seems to envision can only exacerbate the problem with yet more administrative proselytizing. What's needed is critical thinking about diversity-what it really means, and what it is really worth-as well as more attention to other, more central academic values.

          "I therefore respectfully decline the president's invitation to celebrate diversity everywhere and always. Although the president is reported to have said that "she wants diversity to be a principle of institutional accountability," I am not accountable to anyone for my refusal to join in the diversity chorus. Indeed, the overzealousness of our administrators in spreading the faith about diversity, and their conflation of that faith with diversity itself, lead me to wonder whether I can continue to endorse their use of affirmative action in admissions. Racial distinctions are a dangerous tool that should be entrusted only to those who can be clear-headed about the dangers."

Condoleeza Rice: 'Lower standards' for blacks ripped (Posted 03-04-04)

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          "National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says she supports "soft affirmative action," but that it should never be associated with "lower expectations" or "lower standards" for blacks and women.

          [Ms. Rice said] "When people assume blacks or women are less capable, and, therefore say, 'lower the standards,' that's the killer. It's the worst thing you can do to anyone," Miss Rice, who is black, said in a lengthy television interview on Armstrong Williams' show "On Point." The interview will air 7 p.m. Sunday on the TV One network on D.C. Cable Channel 60. In the interview, Mr. Williams called Miss Rice "the most powerful woman on earth." She did not disagree. "I've been very fortunate. I've had a blessed life," she said, adding, "I don't think race or gender have gotten in the way. But it doesn't mean they haven't impacted my life."

          "As a former provost at Stanford University, Miss Rice has had experience with affirmative action. Because of that, she says, President Bush sought her opinions regarding the legality of affirmative-action programs at the University of Michigan, which consider race for admission to its undergraduate college as well as its law school and were the subject of a lengthy court battle. "I told him what I thought, which was that we shouldn't have quotas, that I thought there were problems with the Michigan program, but that it was important in my view that race be ... allowed to be considered a factor, because race is a factor in American life. You can't ignore that," Miss Rice said.

          "Asked to define how race should be considered a factor in college admissions, Miss Rice replied, "I would call it 'soft affirmative action,' or the ability to look at the total person and to recognize that race is a factor in the life of that person. And so is the fact that the person came from a small school or a large school or plays a piano or throws a football. The taking [into] account of the whole person." Miss Rice said she thinks that college admissions programs "work best when they don't work by formula" but look at what an individual can contribute and recognize that minorities can contribute diversity. In a ruling in June, the Supreme Court preserved the law school's affirmative-action policy by a one-vote margin. However, it said the university's policy was too rigid. That program awarded admission points based on race. Mr. Bush had asked the high court to deem the programs unconstitutional. Miss Rice said she thinks the president was correct to let the issue be decided in the courts. "I, personally, think the court came out in a very good place," she said.

Arthur T. White and Elizabeth S. White Sign petition to put civil rights initiative on ballot (Posted 03-04-04)

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          "... Preferential policies by race are soundly rejected by the American public, as poll after poll show. This rejection is strongly supported by congressional action on behalf of the public the Congress represents.

          "How can it happen that five activist judges can overturn this substantial consensus for fair and equal treatment for all applicants to the University of Michigan? And what can be done about it?

          "We have no answer to the first question. But the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) provides an answer to the second question.

          "The MCRI uses language nearly identical to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, forbidding the state to "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."

          "On Jan. 12 a petition drive was begun, to place a proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution on the ballot for November 2004 that would implement this language. A total of 317,757 signatures are needed by July 6.

          "Several remarks are in order:

          "1 -- The Supreme Court decisions do not mandate preferential admissions, but they do not forbid them either. The MCRI would resolve this ambiguity.

          "2 -- Opponents of the MCRI claim that it would kill affirmative action. This is not the case. The legal purpose of affirmative action, which we support, is to insure equal opportunity for all (cast a broad net, and make sure that no one is discriminated against). Preferential policies are the illegal distortion of affirmative action, and are all that the MCRI seeks to ban.

          "Please note the following from the federal regulation supporting Lyndon Johnson's Executive Order 11246 establishing affirmative action: "It is not intended and should not be used to discriminate against any applicant or employee because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin."

          "3 -- Some MCRI opponents are labeling the initiative as racist. But how is it racist to insist that race not be taken into account? We urge all readers to sign the petition to bring this issue to a vote.   Also, petitions and other information are available at Please consider signing and/or circulating this petition; the MCRI can only succeed if supporters become active in the process.

          "Please consider:

          "(a) If you prefer equal opportunity for individuals over equal outcome for groups, then here is a chance to make that preference known.

          "(b) If you believe that preferential admissions are desirable in Michigan, then please ask yourself if it might be that such policies harm even the intended beneficiaries. How can it benefit anyone to send a student into an academic environment with preparation insufficient to allow reasonable competition with the other students? If this were not the case, then the preferential policy would not be necessary. Doomsayers in California, following passage of Proposition 209, similar to the MCRI, predicted that minority enrollment would plummet. The actual effect is essentially unchanged enrollment, through better preparation.

          "(c) If you are uncertain about preferential admissions, then please sign the petition anyway, so that the issue can be resolved democratically. Why let five unelected judges decide for all of us? -30-

Affirmative Action Foes Seek Mich. Referendum -- Initiative Would Amend State's Constitution (Posted 03-05-04)

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By Robert E. Pierre Washington Post Staff Writer Friday, March 5, 2004; Page A03

DETROIT -- "Only months after a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding affirmative action in higher education stemming from cases at the University of Michigan, this state has again become an epicenter in the fight over racial preferences.

          "Opponents of affirmative action have launched a bid to amend Michigan's constitution to strip racial preferences from state university admissions, state hiring and contracting.

          "They sought the assistance of Ward Connerly, a regent of the state university system in California who has gained national prominence for his efforts to end affirmative action there and in other states. And they have attracted back to Michigan a plaintiff in the challenges to the University of Michigan's admissions system, Jennifer Gratz, to lead the constitutional campaign. The campaigners are trying to gather 317,757 signatures by July 6 to get the proposed ban on November's ballot.

          " "I absolutely believe that treating people differently because of skin color is wrong," Gratz said. "We've had an overwhelming response. We're answering hundreds of e-mails, and we've had thousands of phone calls."

          "Some of Michigan's most prominent public officials, including Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D), oppose the campaign and argue that it will mean fewer women and minorities in government and reduce diversity on the state's college campuses. But opposition to affirmative action is strong here; a January poll in the Detroit News said 64 percent of state residents oppose racial preferences.

          "Gratz was denied undergraduate admission to the University of Michigan in 1995. Together with another undergraduate admissions applicant, as well an applicant to the university's law school, they sued, saying they lost out to minorities who had lower grades and test scores.

          "In June, in the most important affirmative action decision in a generation, the Supreme Court upheld the law school's admissions program, which sought to find a "critical mass" of minorities for its classes, and rejected the undergraduate system which relied on a point system to boost minority enrollment. The net effect of the court's decisions was to permit public universities to use race as a factor in admissions provided they take sufficient care to evaluate individually each applicant's ability to contribute to a diverse student body.

          "The referendum campaign is Connerly's brainchild. He announced the Michigan effort during a visit to Ann Arbor in the days following the Supreme Court's decision.

          " "The court decision altered the balance of power between those who are in favor of preferences and those of us who aren't. We will not countenance that . . . distinctions based on race are wrong," Connerly said in an interview.

          "In 1996, his American Civil Rights Coalition successfully sponsored California's Proposition 209, and two years later won a push for Initiative 200 in Washington state. In Michigan, organizers plan to raise $600,000 and use hundreds of volunteers and paid staffers to collect signatures.

          "Connerly has already become a primary target, tagged by some as a rabble-rousing outsider.

          "At a news conference on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Granholm, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D) and other political leaders stood alongside the NAACP and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to voice their displeasure.

          " "We will stand up to [Connerly], stand up to all who oppose affirmative action," Kilpatrick told a crowd of cheering supporters here not long ago.

          " "We won't allow them to put a black face on a red, white and blue problem," said Detroit NAACP president the Rev. Wendell Anthony, referring to Connerly, who is African American. "If we sit quietly and don't speak up, we are in trouble."

          "State Rep. Leon Drolet (R) of suburban Detroit, who supports the campaign, said he is happy to have Connerly's help but that it is more important what Michigan voters think.

          " "Our opponents are using weapons of mass distraction," Drolet said. "Every signature is going to be of a Michigan citizen. They don't want to discuss the issue, because they have already lost that debate."

          "Leaders of Citizens for a United Michigan -- an umbrella group of those defending affirmative action -- are working to educate voters about what they call the deceptiveness of the amendment. The language of the Michigan petition adopts wording from the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbidding the state to "discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin" in public employment, university admissions and contracting. Instead of ending discrimination, they charge that the new amendment would allow more discrimination against minorities.

          " "We have to get the word out not to sign these petitions," said retired Brig. Gen. Michael Rice, who is chairman of Citizens for a United Michigan. "This will have far-reaching effects. It will have unintended or intended consequences, depending on who you ask. We're asking people not to throw their signature away in a shopping mall."

          "Among other things, Rice predicted a rollback in hiring minority police officers and firefighters, the number of women who enroll in the math and sciences at state universities and the diversity on college campuses. For instance, University of Michigan officials reported this month a sharp, 23 percent decline in the number of blacks, Hispanics and American Indians seeking admission. Officials blame the prolonged court battle.

          " "It could be devastating in terms of our ability to have a diverse student body," said Marvin Krislov, the university's general counsel, noting that outreach program to attract women and ethnic minorities could face elimination.

          "Ron Edwards, a writer and talk show host, thinks that is a good thing. A resident of Royal Oak, just outside Detroit, the Cleveland native said he teaches his children to stand on their own two feet. Without affirmative action, he said, minorities and women who do graduate will not have to wonder whether they were good enough to move forward on their own.

          " "Discrimination is as present as oxygen," said Edwards, who is black and has lived in the Detroit area for a decade. "But a defeat of discrimination is not through government-sponsored discrimination. If you want to hurt a racist, succeed."

Heartwell, others say petition opposing affirmative action is misleading (Posted 02-27-04)

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          "Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell and other civic and religious leaders expressed strong opposition this morning to a petition drive aimed at putting affirmative action before Michigan voters. They say the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative petition is misleading and that those who sign think they are supporting affirmative action. It was what affirmative action supporters feared. Heartwell and others say people who support affirmative action are signing a state petition against it, lured in by the name: the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Petition drive supporters apparently succeeded in collecting signatures last month in Grand Rapids outside a Martin Luther King birthday celebration at Grand Rapids Community College, an annual gathering of civil rights leaders. "People see 'Michigan Civil Rights anything' and you've got to stand in line to sign yes for that without reading the fine print," said Armand Robinson, a member of the Grand Rapids Community Relations Commission. "How many (signatures) could they have got? Lord, have mercy." Robinson and other Commission members pledged today to join forces with opponents of the petition drive. The Rev. David Baak, head of the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism, called on ministers to oppose the petition. Ingrid Scott Weekley, head of the city's Equal Opportunity Department, called on everyone to write their legislators and make it clear to say no to the petition. She said attorney general Mike Cox supports the petition. Weekley said a Ku Klux Klan Web site has a link to the petition supporters' Web site, something she found especially disturbing. The petition drive is led by Jennifer Gratz, the winning plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case against the University of Michigan's admissions policies regarding race. Gratz organized supporters in Grand Rapids this month. "Some voters have actually signed the petition, not knowing they were actually pledging their support for amending the Michigan Constitution to ban affirmative action in employment practices and public university admissions in Michigan," said Nancy Haynes, chairwoman of the Community Relations Commission. ... "Affirmative action has worked. It has been effective. We've seen it in the city organizations, in the business sector, in colleges and universities and it works. And any effort to dismantle it is wrong-headed," Heartwell said. "It's an anti-civil rights initiative, and they are doing this under the guise of a pro-active civil rights initiative. It is anything but that," he said. By not signing the petition Heartwell said, "We are saying no to bigotry." ... Luke Massey, an organizer for the group By Any Means Necessary, said the issue has to be stopped before it gets to the polls. "It will be an uphill battle." Massey said.

Local group wants to keep Affirmative Action ban off the ballot (Posted 02-27-04)

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          "The issue of should Michigan ban Affirmative Action is stirring debate all over the state. The petition drive to put the question on the ballot in November drew fire in Grand Rapids on Thursday. To some people, just the name on the petition suggests something short of what it really is, and according to Grand Rapids Equal Opportunity Director Ingrid Scott-Weekley, is far from the truth. "The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative; it makes suspecting voters think they are signing a petition that supports civil rights," said Scott-Weekley. Initiative backers are trying to gather enough signatures to place the question of whether to ban Affirmative Action at the state level on the November ballot. "The language starts out at the very beginning. It talks about equal protection under the law. And quite simply that's all we want to do, is give everyone an equal opportunity, equal protection under the law," said State Representative Jack Hoogendyk. The Kalamazoo Republican is part of the effort to get the anti-Affirmative Action question on the ballot. But a group of Grand Rapids community leaders, as well as others across the state, claim the wording of the petition takes advantage of unsuspecting citizens. 24 Hour News 8 wanted to find out just how confusing the language actually is, so we hit the streets with the petition in hand. We showed the petition to five people chosen at random in downtown Grand Rapids. Two of the people confirmed what critics had to say. "They're trying to end affirmative action? I'm really confused," said one woman. We asked another person if he think it supports Affirmative Action or is against it. "I think it supports it," the man answered. Two other people found little confusion in the language. "I don't think so," one of them answered. "No...if you read the first sentence. But you have to read it," said the other. And then there was this response - "Typically, you'd think somebody who's banning it...the language would be a little stronger. This makes it look like it's pretty even handed."

Suit seeks to block initiative petitions (Posted 02-26-04)

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A group called Citizens for a United Michigan wants petitions calling for an election on the issue of racial preferences to be declared unlawful. The group filed a lawsuit Monday against the Michigan Board of State Canvassers in Ingham County Circuit Court. Court documents ask that state canvassers be required to reject any signatures already collected on the petitions. Gen. Michael J. Rice, executive director of the Lansing-based Citizens for a United Michigan, said in a prepared statement Tuesday the lawsuit was filed to make sure Michigan voters know "exactly what pieces of the state's constitution will be changed should this amendment be approved." The proposed amendment, called Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, seeks to prohibit governments and public colleges and universities from considering race or gender in public hiring, education or contracting. Supporters of the petition drive must collect 317,757 signatures by July 6 to put the measure on the Nov. 2. Tim O'Brien, MCRI campaign manager, said he does not know exactly how many signatures have been collected. O'Brien said petitions are still being circulated since people have requested them and downloaded them from the MCRI Web site. He also said that he was aware of the Citizens for a United Michigan's lawsuit. "Their lawsuit is a desperate attempt to prevent voters of Michigan to even consider this," O'Brien said. "They know that the polls show that when this gets on the ballot, it will pass. So, they're making every effort they can to interfere with the voting process." The lawsuit claims that the petitions do not let potential signers know what specific provisions of the Michigan Constitution would be changed or eliminated, if adopted by voters.

MCRI: Speaker at Clinton Township rally says racism lives (Posted 02-29-04)

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Decline to sign. Then register everyone you can to vote. That was the message echoed Tuesday by those hoping to stop a proposed race- and ethnicity-based Michigan constitutional amendment this year before it gets to the polls. At issue is a campaign by the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative to collect roughly 317,800 signatures to allow voters the chance to ban the state's use of race or ethnicity in state employment, college admissions, state contracting or any other state-supported functions. Initiative proponents argue such an amendment would "level the playing field," by ensuring that qualifications, not race or gender, be the determining factor in hiring and admissions choices. But opponents call the legislation dangerous — immediately eliminating programs aimed at ending discrimination at a time when discrimination is alive and well. "Quotas are necessary and will remain necessary until society is color blind," the Rev. D.L. Bradley, leader of the Macomb County Ministerial Alliance, told about 100 people who attended a Clinton Township rally to oppose the measure. "End racism and we will gladly shout 'end quotas and end affirmative action.'" But until that day arrives, dismantling efforts to end years of discriminatory hiring practices against minorities, as this legislation would do, would "immediately kill all of the progress designed to help women, African-Americans and other minorities," said U.S. Army retired Brig. Gen. Michael Rice, executive director of Citizens for a United Michigan. His organization is spearheading opposition to the petition drive and is urging residents to not sign it. "Discrimination still exists," he said. "The other side believes either racism doesn't exist or that it's not important." Supporters of the proposal meanwhile, argue the playing field has already been leveled and now discriminates against qualified white applicants such as Jennifer Gratz. Gratz, who is white, sued the University of Michigan after she was passed over for admission to the university in 1997 for a minority applicant with lesser academic credentials. But in a controversial ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a split decision, ruled to allow the university's limited use of racial preferences in university admissions — prompting the petition drive. Gratz is now heading the Michigan initiative started by California businessman Ward Connerly, who led similar successful campaigns in California and Washington. Macomb County Republican state Reps. Leon Drolet of Clinton Township and Jack Brandenburg of Harrison Township also serve on the initiative's board. The measure has also drawn the support of the Michigan Chapter of the Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan — a move that activists believe by their very endorsement shows the proposed legislature is discriminatory. "The support of the Ku Klux Klan exposes the real meaning of the petition against affirmative action in Michigan," said Shanta Driver, national spokeswoman and national co-chair of the By All Means Necessary organization, which opposes the initiative. "It (proposal) will promote segregation and racism and divide our state by race." But that organization's officials maintain they wish no one harm, only fairness for white residents. "This petition was started because a young white lady, Jennifer Gratz, was denied admittance into college simply because the college determined it was better to take a lesser scoring minority student," said Phil Lawson, the KKK's grand kleagle for Michigan, in a posting on the group's Web site. "To let a lesser-qualified minority into college over a better scoring white student is an injustice to all people. All we are asking for is a fair playing field. We want to do away with preferential treatment for minorities." Macomb County NAACP President Ruthie Stevenson, meanwhile, is urging residents to make sure people are registered to vote, so that a proper challenge can be made should the petition be approved for the ballot. Legal challenges to the petition's language are expected in an effort to stall its progress, opponents said. "If (this) gets on the ballot and you're not registered to vote, it's too late," Stevenson said.

Klan shows dubious support for ban on affirmative action (Posted 02-18-04)

By Aymar Jean, Daily Staff Reporter February 18, 2004

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The initiative to end affirmative action in Michigan recently received a dubious and opponents say, symbolic endorsement from an anti-civil rights organization.

The Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan - a nationwide white supremacist group - recently pledged support for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. The MCRI is waging a campaign to amend the state constitution to end the use of race in public education, employment and contracting.

Grand Kleagle Phil Lawson of the KKK's Michigan chapter recently condemned in a written statement what affirmative action opponents call "racial preferences."

"To let a lesser-qualified minority into college over a better scoring White student (is) an injustice to all people," Lawson said. "We want to do away with preferential treatment for minorities. The hypocrisy of affirmative action shines bright as ever in the case (of) Jennifer Gratz. We must outlaw affirmative action once and for all," he said, referring to a plantiff in the University's admissions lawsuit.

In the statement, Lawson urged members to collect signatures for the initiative. MCRI needs 317,757 signatures by July 6 to put the question of racial preferences on the November ballot.

MCRI campaign manager Tim O'Brien said he was surprised about the endorsement, unaware that it had been posted. "It is news to me," said O' Brien, who added that he has not received any requests for petitions from the group. "They can say whatever they want on their website. I have no control over it."

Receiving support from a group that opposes civil rights has raised questions about MCRI's commitment to the ideals of equality.

MCRI asserts that the purpose of its ballot initiative is to guarantee equal protection under the law, regardless of race, ethnicity or sex. For this reason, the group presents itself as a civil rights initiative, heralding the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In numerous interviews, O'Brien has invoked the activist days of the '60s. He has often quoted King's idea that "individuals should be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

MCRI's connection to King is evident in its mission statement and its petition methods. "Our goal is to finally realize the promise made four decades ago with the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act," the statement reads.

"It should be unconstitutional to discriminate," O'Brien said.

But the KKK does not regard the civil rights era with such esteem. The group 's website contains a picture of King overlaid by a red line. The picture links to a website urging members to protest King's birthday, claiming that the civil rights leader was a "womanizing promoter of race-mixing and 100 percent communist."

It is ironic, then, that this organization would support MCRI, O'Brien said. Though he is unsure of their intentions, he said he respects their right to civic participation.

For BAMN members, however, the reason is not so elusive. "It's not surprising at all," LSA senior and BAMN organizer Kate Stenvig said. "We know that they're lying when they call it a civil rights initiative."

MCRI's commitment to these principles of civil rights has been continually disputed.

Two weeks ago while petitioning in the Michigan Union, the Young Americans for Freedom, a nationwide conservative group, faced opposition by BAMN. Part of the YAF's display included an image of King along with a quote. MCRI supporters said these images coincide well with both groups' intentions.

"We believe that racial preferences are wrong and are inherently racist. So we're supporting Mr. (Ward) Connerly's initiative to end all racial preferences in public education, hiring and contracts," YAF co-chair Laura Davis.

Although YAF's display was not an official MCRI poster, opponents say the campaign has co-opted the civil rights leader's message, reducing its meaning to demagoguery. Opposition groups like BAMN say affirmative action provides access for minorities and women who have experienced societal inequalities for decades.

"It makes all the more duplicitous their hiding behind the picture of Martin Luther King," BAMN co-chair and national organizer Shanta Driver said.

But in some ways, O'Brien claimed, the KKK and BAMN are similar. They both believe that "people should be treated differently based on what color they are," he said.

Portraying both BAMN and the KKK as extremist organizations, MCRI co-chair and state Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Twp.) said he doubts that this endorsement will affect their campaign.

"Any reasonable person would repudiate the Klan, as we would repudiate anyone who advocates against human equality," he said.

MCRI's campaign, which began in January, has persisted despite opposition in the courts and on the streets. The group has sent out about 20,000 petitions, O'Brien estimates, though it has received few signatures. He said that since it is only February, people do not feel a "sense of urgency" in returning the forms. The group is 38 days into its 180-day petition drive.

O'Brien would not comment on the group's financial position. He approximated that 500 to 1,000 people - mostly young people - have volunteered to collect signatures. MCRI has yet to hire petitioners.

Groups like BAMN and state leaders like U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich) have opposed the group since the start of the campaign. BAMN has launched a "Decline to Sign" campaign and promises to protest anywhere petitioners are collecting signatures.

MCRI is also facing two lawsuits. One suit was filed by BAMN, represented by the law firm Scheff and Washington and joined by Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton and the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus. The lawsuit questions the legality of MCRI's petition form.

The other lawsuit, initiated by two lawyers represented the University in the Supreme Court, questions the legal premise of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Affirmative action foe brings message to town (Posted 02-17-04)

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She uses the language of a civil rights activist, evoking such phrases as equal opportunity and equal justice. Yet the cause she is involved in -- The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative -- could pass as a movement to empower minorities. But Jennifer Gratz is on a much different mission. The winning plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case against the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions policy, Gratz wants to erase all racial preferences in state agencies and universities. In effect, she wants to overturn state-sanctioned affirmative action programs that she says discriminate in a way that contradicts the spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. "A society that makes decisions based on skin color can never offer equal opportunity," said Gratz, the new executive director of the statewide ballot drive to amend the state constitution that would ban racial preferences. Gratz, 26, is in Grand Rapids today for private meetings with supporters. She would not divulge who they are, saying only that she is here to help put their volunteer effort in place. The ballot drive has until July 12 to collect 317,757 signatures to place the initiative on the November ballot. The move stems from the U.S. Supreme Court decision last June upholding the University of Michigan law school's use of affirmative action in its admissions policy. ... Her case became the centerpiece of a national debate that had been simmering since 1978, when a medical student, Alan Bakke, challenged the admissions policy of the University of California at Davis. The Supreme Court ruled then that race could be used as a factor in admitting students but that quotas were forbidden. "The lawsuit wasn't about me as an individual," she said. "It was about being treated fairly. I didn't want other students to go through what I went through." Her story does little to placate critics, who say she has no sense of appreciation for the struggle blacks and other minorities continue to endure. "White people didn't donate 225 years of free labor, they didn't have to stand in the back of the line for all these many years waiting for something reasonable to happen to rectify the past inequities," said Donald Williams, a former dean of minority affairs at Grand Valley State University. Proponents of the ballot issue are misleading people, said Gert Hobson, a Grand Rapids political activist who is leading a local effort to raise awareness against the initiative. "It's purposely worded to mislead people into believing they're signing a civil rights thing, something that will help them," she said. Hobson, a member of the Kent County Democratic Party Black Caucus, said Gratz' experience at U-M should have given her a better understanding of what blacks have gone through for generations. "Now she has a door shut in her face, and now she knows," Hobson said. "If anything, she should come over and help our side. She should be our biggest spokesman. She may think she suffered, but we've dealt with this all our lives. It's just another day when we have to live with disadvantages." Bill Gelineau, of Lowell, the state chairman for the Libertarian Party who announced this week his party supports the initiative, said he's not convinced that blacks need a lift anymore. "There may have been a time when opportunity for equal education and employment was not available," Gelineau said. "But it is available now. I absolutely believe racism is still rampant, but affirmative action won't change that. It will take a change in psychology." Black leaders are using the issue of affirmative action for their own political purposes, he said. "Blacks -- at least among their leaders -- believe there's still a payday for the egregious errors for the past," Gelineau said. "They frankly benefit from the existence of these programs."

Thomas Bray: Court case causes U-M admissions fallout (Posted 02-18-04)

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A 23 percent decline in minority admissions to the University of Michigan so far this year is being blamed on a hostile environment created by last year’s bitter battle over racial preferences in the Supreme Court. The court threw out the university’s affirmative action system at the undergraduate level as too "mechanical," though it permitted the continuation of the law school’s admission system on grounds it offered more individualized review of applicants. The decline in undergraduate admissions is likely to be cited as evidence of the supposedly destructive effects of a proposed referendum in Michigan — for which supporters are trying to gather signatures — banning the use of race in jobs and admissions. Before defenders of affirmative action begin proclaiming catastrophe, it should be noted that the Michigan experience is very similar to that of top state schools in California and Washington state after successful ballot initiatives there in the 1990s barred the use of race-based preferences. Minority enrollment in both state systems has grown, though much of California’s rise in minority enrollment has occurred at less selective institutions. Once the shock of a merit-based system wears off, minorities apparently are rising to the challenge. There may be other reasons for the upturn in minority enrollments in these states. The admissions departments of California and Washington universities have been accused of inventing proxies for race that, in effect, have allowed them to resume their sorting by skin color and ethnicity. ... What the experience of California, Washington and now Michigan most clearly shows is the need for expanding the pool of qualified applicants. That means serious reform of the K-12 educational system, including expanded school choice systems that break the monopoly grip of union-controlled, results-averse public schools. Voters in Michigan rejected a voucher referendum in 2000, but backers, prominently including former Amway executive Dick DeVos, have turned to other states in the hopes of achieving some breakthroughs. Without more diversity in our K-12 school systems, DeVos and others persuasively argue, it will be difficult to achieve lasting diversity on our college campuses — except through the use of increasingly sneaky techniques aimed at circumventing the Supreme Court’s modest restraints on the use of race. And that likely may add support for the kind of voter outrage that led to landslide approval of initiatives in California and Washington — and now possibly Michigan.

King family is asked to regulate use of image (Posted 02-12-04)

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A coalition that opposes a ballot initiative to end affirmative action in Michigan has asked the family of Martin Luther King Jr. to stop the use of his image and words in the petition drive. The request was in a letter Wednesday to Michele Barnett of Intellectual Properties Management, which represents the King estate. It was sent by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration, and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary. The letter asks the King family to take action against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which is collecting signatures for the ballot proposal. The initiative group displays a quotation from King on an inside page of its Web site. The coalition also cited a poster featuring a photograph of King and a quote from the "I Have a Dream" speech that it said has been used by a University of Michigan group collecting signatures for the initiative. "Presenting Dr. King as an opponent of affirmative action and integration is a lie and slander," Shanta Driver, a cochairwoman of the coalition, wrote in a separate letter to the Civil Rights Initiative. Tim O'Brien, campaign manager for the Civil Rights Initiative, said he believed the group's display of King's words on the Web site was fair use. In the letter to Barnett, Driver said the estate should intervene as it did in California in 1996, during debates over Proposition 209, which banned the consideration of race and gender in public employment, education and contracting. At that time, California Republicans drew fire for television ads that included a clip of the "I Have a Dream" speech. The clip was pulled after King's estate said permission to use his words had never been given to any partisan group.

U-M loses minority applicants (Posted 02-11-04)

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The number of minority high school students seeking a spot at the University of Michigan dropped sharply this year, and school officials attribute the decline in part to court-ordered changes in its admissions policy and a brewing battle over the future of affirmative action. The 23 percent decline in applications from blacks, Hispanics and American Indians came as the total number of people applying for space in the next freshman class dropped 18 percent, according to figures U-M released Monday. "Obviously, we’re concerned that the applications from minority students are down more than the population as a whole," U-M spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. Because the university still hasn’t made most of its decisions about whom it will actually admit, it’s too soon to say whether the change will lead to a less diverse class in the fall, Peterson said. Peterson blamed the larger dropoff among minority applicants, in part, on the cloud still surrounding affirmative action because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision clarifying how it can be used, the "hostile" language of an ongoing ballot initiative to ban the practice and the more difficult application process the court’s decision created. ... "I think students don’t understand that we still have affirmative action, and I think the ballot initiative is causing some anxiety," Peterson said. "What students are worried about is, ‘Will I be welcomed and will I be going to a campus where I’m valued?’ " Opponents of affirmative action disagree, nothing that if anything, the court’s decision strengthened U-M’s ability to weigh students’ race in the admissions process. "I really don’t see these decisions making it harder for minorities to get into the University of Michigan," said Curt A. Levey, the legal director for the Center for Individual Rights, which championed the cases challenging affirmative action at U-M. "I expect the University of Michigan to be just as diverse as it was before, but it’s going to have to achieve that in a way that doesn’t automatically give you points for your skin color." One U-M supporter said the university should shoulder part of the blame for the lower application numbers. Cyril Cordor, a member of By Any Means Necessary, a group that supports affirmative action, said the school needs to take a stronger position supporting the use of race and be more vocal in opposing attempts to end it. "The ongoing attacks on affirmative action and the fact that people are questioning whether we’re qualified to be here, is going to have an impact," said Cordor, a math major from Georgia. ... Other schools also are noticing declines in minority applications. The Supreme Court’s ruling forced Ohio State University to overhaul its application process last summer, in favor of one that relies more on essays. The school’s preliminary numbers show the total number of applications dropped nearly 9 percent and the number of minority applications dropped almost 13 percent, said Mabel Freeman, assistant vice president for admissions at OSU. That will almost certainly lead to a less diverse freshman class next year, she said. "There’s a real concern out there as a result of the Supreme Court case as to what’s going to happen. It’s having a chilling effect," Freeman said. "That’s a real disappointment for us because this is a university that puts a high value on diversity."

Minority Applications Drop at Michigan (02-22-04)

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Seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the University of Michigan's undergraduate affirmative action policy, the number of applications from blacks, Hispanics and American Indians is down 23 percent from the same time last year. And the number of those admitted is down 30 percent. Officials said the figures are only preliminary and thousands more applications will continue to be reviewed in a process the school hopes to finish by the first week of April. The application deadline was Feb. 1. ``We've only accepted a fraction of the class we'll ultimately admit,'' associate director of admissions Chris Lucier said Monday. Overall, applications for this fall's incoming freshman class are down 18 percent, according to the preliminary data. Despite the decrease in applications, the total number of students admitted so far--nearly 8,600--is down only 1 percent from the same time last year. The university plans to admit 12,000 to 13,000 students and hopes that will yield an enrollment of 5,545 for this fall. ... Admissions Director Ted Spencer said minority students and their families may not want to thrust themselves into the center of the debate over affirmative action. ``The residual kinds of impact of all this discussion and dialogue, particularly from the other side of this issue, that diversity is bad, it makes a lot of students think, `Well, maybe I don't want to be put into that sort of environment,''' Spencer said. Ohio State University, which also revised a similar point-based admissions policy in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, said applications from American Indians are holding steady and Hispanic applications are up 6.2 percent from the same time last year, but applications from blacks are down 18.6 percent. ``The mere conversation in the minority community seems to be what lawyers call a chilling effect,'' said Mabel Freeman, assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions.

Applications from minorities drop in '03-04 (Posted 02-10-04)

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Since the University revised its admissions process after last year’s lawsuits, the number of applications from underrepresented minorities is down 23 percent, while total applications dropped 18 percent. "We knew this year would have challenges," said Associate Director of Admissions Chris Lucier. "But I’m reassured that the students we’re admitting now are really strong and qualified." Because these numbers are still preliminary, they do not include the most recent applicants, such as the 1,800 applications received Jan. 30 and on the deadline, Feb. 1. One reason for the unusually large influx of applications near the deadline is the number of online applications, Lucier said. Underrepresented minorities — blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans — sent 2,322 applications last year and 1,790 applications this year. At this time last year the University had received 24,447 total applications, while during the 2003-2004 academic year, it received only 20,125 applications. These numbers are not problematic, said Director of Admissions Ted Spencer. 20,000 applications is actually the typical amount the University receives in a year, while the 25,000 applicants of the past years represent "boom years" in terms of total applications received, he said.

President Coleman hosts historic diversity summit (Posted 02-09-04)

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President Mary Sue Coleman has invited more than 300 University executive officers, deans, faculty, staff and students to discuss the campus climate during a daylong Diversity Summit Feb. 11. The first event of its kind, the summit will use small-group discussions to foster the exchange of ideas among all ranks of faculty, students and staff. "Our goal will be a better understanding of the current campus climate," Coleman says. "I want to make sure that all members of our community feel welcome to participate fully in campus life." Senior Vice Provost Lester Monts, the president's senior counselor for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs, has coordinated the planning of the event with a program committee consisting of members of the Diversity Council, deans and executive officers. "During the admissions lawsuits," he says, "we were focused on the national conversation about affirmative action. At this event, we are turning our attention to the important voices and questions within our own community." Although the Diversity Summit is concerned with strategies for improving the University's climate, the invitation sent by Coleman to participants includes the expectation that U-M's institutional commitment to diversity will provide "a national model on this crucial issue."

BAMN files suit against Connerly's ballot initiative over wording of petition (Posted 02-09-04)

By Aymar Jean, Daily Staff Reporter February 09, 2004

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Opponents of the initiative to end race-conscious policies in Michigan government added to their litany of grievances last week.

BAMN and a number of other civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit last week against the Michigan Board of Canvassers, which reviewed the form of the petition for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

MCRI is circulating a ballot to end "preferences based on race, ethnicity and sex," in public education, employment and contracting. It needs 317,757 signatures by July 6 in order to get a question on preferences on the November ballot.

MCRI is facing another lawsuit from two attorneys, Godfrey Dillard and Milton Henry, who defended the University before the U.S. Supreme Court last summer. This suit attacks MCRI's amendment for attempting to override the court decision, which legitimized the use of race and identified diversity as a compelling state interest.

BAMN's attorney, George Washington, said MCRI's petition does not comply with Michigan law, which states that any petition to amend or abrogate an existing article of the state constitution must say so on its form. It must also include the text of the article that it seeks to change, Washington said.

By not including the law on the petition form, MCRI is not obligated to explain its intentions to potential signers, he said.

"It's not that it's a technical violation. It's a deliberate deception," he said. "(MCRI) claims that it's a civil rights bill when it isn't. In reality, what they're doing is passing an anti-civil rights amendment."

The ballot currently includes this statement of purpose: "The proposal would amend the state constitution section 25 to article 1 (the declaration of rights article)." But it does not include the text of the article.

The state constitution already contains an article prohibiting discrimination based on race and ethnicity. MCRI's amendment would change it to ban "preferences" based on these two characteristics and also add gender, an attribute not mentioned in the constitution.

The proposed amendment would also restrict the University's autonomy in admissions currently protected in Article 8 of the constitution, Washington said.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing on March 4. If the district court rules in BAMN's favor, MCRI would have to redo its petition.

MCRI co-chair and state Rep. Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Twp.) said MCRI had constitutional attorneys work on the amendment, and that the group's decision to amend the constitution is justified. "Apparently the constitution which we thought prohibited discrimination does not," he said.

Drolet also questioned the legal basis of the lawsuit. "I do question the lawsuit's decision to go after content of the petition using the Board of Canvassers as their target," he said. Drolet said that judging content is not officially under the board's purview. Their job is to examine the formatting - such as font size, the placement of certain clauses and the inclusion of certain mandatory phrases.

Similar ballot initiatives have faced lawsuits in the past. Justin Jones, director of policy and planning for the American Civil Rights Coalition, said the group had about 14 lawsuits in California and Washington. ACRC is MCRI's parent organization.

California banned race-conscious policies in public institutions in 1996. Washington passed a similar measure in 1998. Both decisions were due to similar ballot initiatives begun by ACRC.

"I don't even think they think they're going to win. We've seen this before in other states," Drolet said.

But most of those lawsuits were filed after the petition drive had succeeded and the issue was on the ballot, Washington said.

A number of organizations have backed BAMN's legal efforts. These include Democratic presidential candidate Al Sharpton, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, two chapters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and United for Equality and Affirmative Action, which intervened with BAMN in this summer's U.S. Supreme Court case on the University's admissions policies. Both Sharpton and the Black Caucus were recently added as plaintiffs in the case.

Despite this opposition, MCRI's petition drive continues. The group has spent the past month enlisting supporters, mailing petitions and acquiring funds. They have received a marginal amount of signatures, but Drolet said he did not have specific numbers.

In January, one week after the MCRI campaign officially began, the initiative received an unexpected flood of supportive responses, Drolet said.

He said MCRI currently has enough volunteers focusing on mailing petitions instead of going door-to-door in the cold weather. MCRI hopes to eventually send out "tens of thousands" of petitions per week, he said.

Funding, which has been a concern since the beginning of the campaign, continues to come in, though in smaller portions than needed, Drolet said.

Young people across the state committed to the initiative such as college Republican groups and the Young Americans for Freedom have begun to collect signatures. The state's Libertarian Party has also pledged support, even as the state Republican Party has formally denounced the campaign, Drolet said.

University YAF co-chair and LSA sophomore Laura Davis said that her group has and will continue to collect signatures in the Michigan Union.

Last Friday, while members of YAF collected signatures in the Union basement, BAMN protested as students signed in support of the initiative. As petition supporters signed, BAMN protesters occasionally cried out "racist."

"We are launching a 'Decline to Sign' campaign that will be a rigorous First Amendment campaign to engage the petitioners in debate over affirmative action," BAMN national co-chair Luke Massie said.

BAMN: Press conference announcing suit against Connerly anti-affirmative action ballot drive (Posted 02-08-04)

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On Thursday, February 5, 2004, at 2:30PM, labor, civil rights and student organizations will hold a press conference on the east steps of the State Capitol in Lansing to announce the filing of additional lawsuits challenging the petitions being circulated by Ward Connerly seeking to outlaw all affirmative action in Michigan for women and minorities. Participants will include: Shanta Driver, National Spokesperson for BAMN; Reverend Al Sharpton, Democratic Party Candidate for President; Representatives and Senators of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus; and John Riehl, President of Detroit City Workers AFSCME Local 207. The lawsuit asserts that the petitions falsely claim to be a civil rights initiative by deliberately failing to inform voters of the existing civil rights provisions that they seek to amend. This is a direct violation of Michigan's election law, which requires the petitions to set forth any provision of the Constitution that they seek "to alter or abrogate." Luke Massie, national co-chairperson of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action by Any Means Necessary (BAMN), said "These petitions deliberately lie to voters by pretending to be a civil rights amendment when their real aim is to limit sharply the existing protections for civil rights, including outlawing all affirmative action for women and minorities. We cannot allow Connerly to do here what he has done in California-which is to drive large numbers of black, Latino/a and Native American students out of the most selective universities in that state and bar any active remedy to the gender inequity that still characterizes our job market and our society as a whole." Shanta Driver, National Spokesperson for BAMN, said: "The implications of the anti-affirmative action ballot initiative would be broad and deep. It would nullify the Supreme Court's historic decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the University of Michigan Law School case which maintained affirmative action on a national level.

BAMN: Make Coors pay for funding racism! (Posted 02-08-04)

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          "The New Civil Rights Movement must continue to mobilize in order to defend our recent affirmative action victory in Grutter v Bollinger. We are approaching the 50 year anniversary of Brown v Board of Education still struggling to realize the promise of integration and real equal opportunity in American life. ...

          "As part of building our movement, we have called for a national boycott of Coors Beer, Papa Gino's Italian Restaurants and any other corporation or foundation (Bradley Foundation, Olin Foundation, Scaife Foundation) that has contributed to the efforts of right wing forces to reverse the gains of the last civil rights movement.

          "We are boycotting Coors Beer to stop their funding of Ward Connerly's attack on civil rights. Coors has been a longtime sponsor of the attack on affirmative action and civil rights. They recently gave California Republican businessman Ward Connerly $100,000 for his efforts in California.   Connerly has announced he will attempt to put an anti-affirmative action ballot initiative on the Michigan ballot.

          "... Connerly will need at least 1-2 million dollars to get his segregationist initiative on the ballot. We are determined to deny him the big money he needs. ... By making an example of Coors, we can convince Connerly's other potential donors that informational pickets and publicity identifying them as a business that supports racism and segregation is not profitable. Coors has seen its role typically as providing seed money for major attacks on civil rights like Proposition 209 and the University of Michigan cases. ... Making clear to Coors that racism is bad business can therefore play a very important role in reversing the whole period of right wing and racist attacks on affirmative action and integration." 

BAMN: WHO IS WARD CONNERLY? (Posted 02-08-04)

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University of California Regent Ward Connerly is the leading spokesperson for the well-financed, corporate-backed, far-right-wing national campaign to end affirmative action and to rollback the gains our society has made towards integration. He is president of the "American Civil Rights Institute" (ACRI) and "American Civil Rights Coalition" (ACRC), which spend millions of dollars on ballot initiatives and legal actions to create separate and unequal social conditions. ... Connerly is CEO of Connerly & Associates, Inc., a real estate corporation based in Sacramento. He has gained financially from affirmative action programs in contracting. He attained his Regents position after donating $73,000 to the election campaign of Republican Pete Wilson, who as governor appointed Connerly to the Board of Regents on March 1, 1993, and whose political protégé Connerly is. As president and spokesperson of ACRI and ACRC, Connerly earns an additional $400,000/year. [Sacramento Bee, "Connerly’s Crusading is Paying Off," June 26, 2003] He has received at least $100,000 from Joseph Coors of the Coors Corporation and nearly $2 million from other sources to spend on Proposition 54 (the "Racial Privacy Initiative"). [Ann Arbor News, July 27, 2003] Connerly "buys" his ballot initiatives—with his funding, Connerly pays professional companies to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures to place initiatives on state ballots and to finance deceptive ad campaigns. Despite a legal challenge filed in 2002, Connerly continues to conceal the source of more than $1 million he is currently spending on Proposition 54 ("Racial Privacy Initiative").

Blacks, whites split by drive to ban affirmative action (Posted 02-02-04)

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For William Carrington of Flint, backing affirmative action is personal. "If the playing field was level, then ... I wouldn't be the last one people choose for their study group in class, even though I get A's on my tests," said Carrington, 37, a black graduate student at the University of Michigan-Flint. But David Branierd, a 35-year-old Davison autoworker who is white, sees it differently. "(Affirmative action) seems to go against everything about not judging people by race," said Branierd, his voice rising and his eyebrows arching higher. "It's wrong. It's just wrong." Their opinions are deep-seated and heartfelt, and if you believe the polls, opinions about affirmative action come mainly in those two varieties: black and white. Whites oppose it, blacks support it. Heading into Black History Month, that apparent rift is front and center in the fight over a petition drive to put an anti-affirmative action amendment on the state ballot in November. A local effort to collect signatures hasn't even gotten off the ground. But some area residents worry the mere specter of such a drive will cause tremors along the racial fault line in one of the nation's most segregated metropolitan areas. ... No matter where they stand on the issue, area residents say the drive for the amendment will likely widen the racial divide in Genesee County - the country's ninth-most segregated metro area, according to the 2000 Census. "I don't think affirmative action is good, but I hope this issue doesn't make it to the ballot because it will cause more trouble with race relations, and we've already got enough," said Cassie Armitage of Flushing, who is white. "I just believe it's wrong to award something because someone's black or a woman or Hispanic, but I'm more worried about what all of this will do to our state. I don't want to see people more separated than they are."

News clips courtesy of AADAP.ORG

Recommended Additional Reading:

Definition:  Affirmative Action

Definition:  Diversity

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