But the ink was barely dry on Proposal 2 when three prominent Michigan schools began legal maneuvering to delay its implementation.
The schools are essentially claiming that they were already in the midst of next year's race- and gender-based admissions and financial aid decisions and that complying with Prop. 2 by the Dec. 23, 2006 deadline would be too difficult.
What is truly difficult is to believe that these major universities did not have a contingency plan for compliance in the event Prop. 2 passed. After all, these schools have all of the management expertise and legal resources of any Fortune 500 company facing a similar shift in the political winds, changes in market forces, and/or imminent changes in the regulatory environment.
It is not as if Prop. 2 dropped out of the sky unannounced. The campaign for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative has quite publicly been underway since the June 2003 muddled Supreme Court decision regarding diversity in academia.
That the schools apparently did not have such a compliance plan in place defies logic, implies incompetence or deliberate malfeasance, or -- perhaps most likely -- simply points to massive arrogance.
Nov. 7, 2006 -- On election day, 58 percent of Michiganders voted for Proposal 2 (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative). The constitutional amendment bans race and gender preferences in university admissions and government hiring and contracting within the state. It was to become effective Dec. 23.
However, three universities, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Attorney General Mike Cox, requested an extra six months for the schools to implement Proposal 2 because of what they called the "difficulties, inequities and unfairness" involved in changing the admissions standards "midstream". The universities had already begun making admissions and financial aid decisions for the Fall 2007 academic year -- many of which decisions involved the use of race and gender to some degree.
Dec. 19, 2006 -- U.S. District Judge David Lawson (U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan) agreed to the delay, and pushed back the effective date from Dec. 23 2006 to July 1 2007 for Michigan universities' admissions and financial aid programs.
Eric Russell, a Wayne State University graduate student, appealed to the 6th Circuit, saying the delay will hurt students like him. Russell, who is white, is applying to the U-M Law School for fall admission. He was represented by the Center for Individual Rights.
Fri., Dec. 29, 2006 -- A three judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University must immediately remove race and gender consideration from the admissions and financial aid decisions and fully comply with Proposal Two. This ruling effectively overturned a six month extension granted last week by a lower court.
The University of Michigan announced it is "considering its options" and will soon announce their next step. The radical leftist group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) promised a legal appeal to the full circuit court.
The National Association of Scholars statement, immediately below, gives an excellent summary of this historic victory. Additional news stories follow below.--Editor
NAS Hails MCRI's Overwhelming Victory
Contact: Stephen H. Balch, President (609) 683-7878
PRINCETON, NJ -- 8 NOVEMBER 2006 -- The National Association of Scholars today hailed the overwhelming victory of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot referendum which -- similar to California's Proposition 209 in 1996 -- amends the Michigan state constitution to ban the use of racial and gender preferences in the admission decisions of the state's public universities and colleges. NAS, whose California affiliate helped launch Proposition 209 ten years ago, and its state affiliate, the Michigan Association of Scholars, were the only higher education organizations to support the measure.
Commenting on the decisive outcome, NAS President Stephen H. Balch said: "Preferential admissions received its death blow in Michigan yesterday. The higher education establishment, and almost every other establishment, did all they could, fair and foul, to save it. But the Michigan electorate wasn't buying. Like the American people as a whole, it knows that elementary justice requires individuals be treated as individuals and not as members of designated castes. Preferences will linger on institutional life-support a bit longer. But their repudiation in the state of Gratz and Grutter is, quite unmistakably, the handwriting on the wall. Their eventual demise is now certain."
"We are happy to acknowledge the tireless, often Herculean efforts of those who brought this worthy project to fruition, especially Jennifer Gratz and Carl Cohen, executive director and state chairman respectively of MCRI, and, of course, Ward Connerly. We are also grateful for the work of our Michigan affiliate, which was instrumental in obtaining admissions data under Michigan's public disclosure laws that documented the discrepant standards applied to individuals of differing ancestry. We note finally the stellar and exemplary work of the Center for Equal Opportunity and its president, Roger Clegg, whose recently published statistical studies so irrefutably demonstrated the undue weight assigned to ethnicity by the University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions process."
"Much cleanup work remains to be done, of course, in eliminating the preferential admissions and hiring policies that are now so widespread in America's institutions of higher learning. But the voters of Michigan have sent an unmistakable message to which higher education's leadership will now have to attend." -30-
The National Association of Scholars is America's foremost higher education reform group. Located in Princeton, it has forty-six state affiliates and more than four thousand professors, graduate students, administrators, and trustees as members.
Last Known Link to NAS press release
Controversial Proposal 2 will face three more appeals
City of Lansing, others fight to join prominent lawsuit challenging race preferences ban.
Detroit News -- Friday, December 29, 2006
Marisa Schultz / The Detroit News
The debate over Proposal 2 got even more intense Thursday as three more appeals headed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The parties involved are the city of Lansing, the group Toward a Fair Michigan, and the American Civil Rights Foundation, which filed a joint appeal with the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative committee, to challenge a federal judge's decision that blocked them from joining a prominent lawsuit that challenges whether Proposal 2 is constitutional.
Thursday's action brings the number of appeals to five in less than a week after Michigan's ban on racial and gender preferences took effect and may be a preview of an anticipated lengthy and arduous legal battle.
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Lawson decided Lansing, Toward a Fair Michigan, American Civil Rights Foundation and Jennifer Gratz's Michigan Civil Rights Initiative committee cannot intervene in a lawsuit filed by By Any Means Necessary against the state and three universities.
If they had been granted intervenor status they would have been treated like full stakeholders in the litigation, which carries such privileges as introducing evidence and cross-examining witnesses.
Lawson said the groups did not prove the necessary requirements for intervention such as timeliness of the request, substantial legal interest and inadequate representation by others in the lawsuit.
However, he did grant a request by Eric Russell, a white applicant to U-M Law School, to intervene.
In other action Thursday, lawyers for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Attorney General Mike Cox, BAMN and the state's three largest universities asked the appeals court to uphold a Dec. 19 district court decision that delayed the implementation of Proposal 2 at Wayne State University, Michigan State University and University of Michigan for six months.
Now the Center for Individual Rights, which filed the original two appeals, must file a response by 1 p.m. today. The group, which represents Toward a Fair Michigan and Russell, argues Lawson overstepped his authority when he granted the delay.
A three-judge appeals panel could rule on whether the delay stays in place as soon as today. -30-
You can reach Marisa Schultz at (313) 222-2310 or email@example.com.
Last Known Link to Original Story
Cox: Proposal 2 is Upheld
Monday December 18, 8:10 pm ET
Universities Agree to Comply with Proposal 2, Specify End-Date for Current Admissions Cycle & Prohibit Lawsuits
LANSING, Mich., Dec. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Attorney General Mike Cox announced today he expects a federal court to approve an agreement reached in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposal 2 with respect to a cross claim brought by the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University. The agreement, as negotiated by the Attorney General, is narrowly drawn to delay the enforcement of Proposal 2 with respect to the universities' current admissions and financial aid cycles only, and will expire no later than July 1, 2007. At that time the universities must comply with the new constitutional provision. The agreement also requires the universities to dismiss their claim that Proposal 2 is unconstitutional under the First Amendment, and prohibits the universities from filing any new lawsuits on the same basis.
Cox declared victory. "This is an historic agreement. It upholds Proposal 2 and the will of the people. In addition, the agreement is a reasonable compromise that serves the public interest by allowing the current admissions and financial aid cycles to be completed under existing policies, while confirming the constitutionality of Proposal 2 in light of the legal challenges launched against it by the universities," Cox said. "This is an important legal victory for the people of Michigan and for Proposal 2."
The universities had sought a declaration that Proposal 2 unconstitutionally infringed upon their right of academic freedom under the First Amendment, and sought to have a federal court delay implementation of the amendment with respect to the universities' current admissions and financial aid cycles. The federal court previously permitted the Attorney General to intervene in the lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of Proposal 2.
The parties, including the Attorney General and the Big Three universities, expect the federal court to approve the agreement. -30-
Last known link to original story
Dec. 11, 2006
The following statement was issued today (Dec. 11) by University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman:
Today the University of Michigan (including Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn), Michigan State and Wayne State universities filed a motion in federal court seeking a short-term delay in the implementation of Proposal 2 with respect to admissions and financial aid. We are requesting an injunction permitting us to complete this year's admissions and financial aid cycles using the same standards in place when the process began earlier this year. This motion was filed in response to a lawsuit against our three universities by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and others.
It would be extremely difficult, and unfair to prospective students, to change our admissions and financial aid processes in mid-stream. Our admissions process, including the awarding of financial aid, is a cohesive cycle that begins in the summer when the application is distributed to prospective students and counselors and ends the following May when all offers of admission have been extended and responded to by the students, and financial aid awards have been made and accepted. Students and counselors are now at varying stages in that cycle, and it would be nearly impossible to flip a switch on Dec. 23 and change our procedures abruptly. Students have relied on the information they were given months ago about this year's admissions process, and we have already accepted applications and notified many students of our decision regarding their application.
We want to ensure that our process is consistent and fair throughout the entire admissions cycle. We owe this to prospective students and their families.
I have been clear in my statements over the past few weeks that the University of Michigan will obey the law. We recognize the voters' decision, and we will comply with Proposal 2.
However, precisely what that means for our core operations is uncertain. This uncertainty is underscored by the executive order issued by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has instructed the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to investigate the potential impact of Proposal 2 and issue a report by February. We want to understand the outcome of that review as we consider what changes need to be made to our policies and programs.
We can expect these uncertainties to be clarified by the courts and by our experiences over time, as occurred in California after the passage of Proposition 209. At this time, the University of Michigan is not planning to initiate any additional legal actions. A lawsuit already has been filed against the University by BAMN, and the Pacific Legal Foundation has said it is also considering a lawsuit.
In the meantime, we will make our best attempt to interpret the language of Proposal 2, and continue our programs in a manner that both complies with the law and protects our diversity and our academic excellence. If challenged, the University of Michigan is prepared to defend our programs and our interpretation of the law.
It is important to emphasize that the passage of Proposal 2 does not prohibit public institutions from seeking diversity in our student body, staff and faculty. This educational goal is more important than ever before. We remain fully committed to keeping the doors of opportunity open for all.
The University strives first and foremost to be academically excellent. Diversity is an essential component of our excellence. The quality of our academic programs is enhanced by the rich and varied contributions of students and faculty who approach problems from different perspectives. Many top scholars are attracted to our community because they can study and conduct research with others who challenge their ways of looking at the world. The University of Michigan's academic quality will suffer if we cannot recruit and retain faculty, staff and students from a wide range of backgrounds.
As I have noted, our efforts to defend diversity cannot be limited to the legal arena. An important part of our work in the months ahead will be to pursue every possible innovative means of building a broadly diverse community within the boundaries of the law. We don't know yet whether we will be successful. The experience of other states causes us great concern, but the University of Michigan has been a leader with respect to diversity for many years and we have a dedicated and creative community. We are not afraid of tackling big challenges. We will try every means permitted by the law to achieve this important educational goal, because diversity is critical to our mission, to our excellence and to our future. -30-
Last Known Link to UMich statement
Dec. 11, 2006, 3:08PM
Mich. universities seek delay on new law
By TIM MARTIN Associated Press Writer
LANSING, Mich. - Three universities asked a federal court in Detroit on Monday to delay a new state ban on public affirmative action programs until after this year's admissions and financial aid cycles.
The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University want to complete their annual admissions and financial aid cycles using the standards that were in effect when the process began earlier this year.
The voter-approved initiative to ban the use of race and gender preferences in university admissions and government hiring is to take effect Dec. 23.
The University of Michigan's admissions process begins in the summer when applications are sent to prospective students and counselors. It ends the following May. So far, the school has received nearly 16,000 applications.
"It would be extremely difficult, and unfair to prospective students, to change our admissions and financial aid processes in midstream," University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in a news release.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, the group that organized and supported the initiative, said universities have had adequate time since the November election to get ready for the change.
"This is at best horrible planning by the universities, and at worst an attempt to evade the voters," said state Rep. Leon Drolet, a member of the group.
After the initiative passed, Coleman said the university would try to finish this year's admissions cycle under its current system, which considers race in selecting students. She said scholarship and financial aid promises made to students would be kept, and that no one on campus would lose a job because of the new law.
The initiative was approved by 58 percent of voters. The measure was prompted by a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a general affirmative action policy at the University of Michigan's law school but struck down the school's undergraduate admissions formula, which awarded points based on race.
Courts have upheld a similar proposal passed in California a decade ago. -30-
Last Known Link to Houston Chronicle story
Now the GOP Is For Affirmative Action?
Abandoning principle may not even be smart politics.
Harry Stein, City Journal, Autumn 2006
Ten years ago, the historic passage of California's Proposition 209 banning racial preferences in public contracting and university admissions seemed to promise that colorblind government would soon prevail nationwide. Today, though, affirmative action remains on the books almost everywhere in America. Those who've kept preferences alive include the usual coalition of left-wing activists, a strongly pro-affirmative-action media, business and civic groups anxious to avoid charges of racism, and, hardly least, judges who haven't hesitated to give their own political views the force of law. But what's arguably hurt the anti-preferences drive most has been the desertion of its formerly best ally: the Republican Party.
Nowhere has this Republican desertion been starker than in Michigan, where an almost exact replica of Prop. 209, mandating that the state "shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color or ethnicity, or national origin" is on this fall's ballot. Led by its candidates for governor and U.S. Senator, the state GOP has emphatically distanced itself from the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.
Not only has GOP opposition enabled pro-affirmative-action forces to cast those fighting quotas as ideological pariahs, so far out of the mainstream (and, by implication, so tainted by racist bigotry) that not even Republicans want anything to do with them; it also has severely hampered the MCRI's fund-raising efforts, with many would-be contributors reluctant to cross the party leadership. "I can't tell you how many people have whispered in my ear, 'I'm with you, but I can't say anything publicly,' " confides a frustrated Jennifer Gratz, the MCRI's executive director and the former lead plaintiff in a landmark affirmative-action lawsuit against the University of Michigan. "There's just this fear of standing up and doing the right thing."
Even more disheartening, the Republican backtracking on preferences in Michigan reflects a quiet but steady shift in the national party, too, with the Bush administration undercutting affirmative-action foes-longtime GOP supporters-by embracing the "diversity" mantra that liberals so fervently preach.
The contrast with the GOP's principled recent past is striking. At his first press conference after assuming office in 1981, President Ronald Reagan noted that many affirmative-action programs had become rigid quotas, adding: "I'm old enough to remember when quotas existed in the U.S. for the purpose of discrimination, and I don't want to see that happen again." Reagan's assistant attorney general for civil rights, the combative William Bradford Reynolds, echoed the anti-preferences view, judging affirmative action "demeaning because it says people are going to get ahead not because of what they can do but because of race." While federal bureaucrats and congressional Democrats often frustrated the Reagan administration's efforts to curb quotas, the president's position was never in doubt, and it set the tone for the party.
Black California businessman Ward Connerly was among the many drawn to the GOP by the force of Reagan's personality and straightforward commitment to principle, changing his party registration the very day after he met then-governor Reagan in 1969. Twenty-seven years later, after discovering as a trustee of the University of California system the extent to which skin color determined admission to top campuses like UCLA and Berkeley, he was leading the fight for Prop. 209. Then, as now, the viciousness of the opposition (headed by future Kerry campaign guru Bob Shrum) knew no bounds. Television ads attacking the measure depicted cross burnings and police dogs, seeking to link anti-preferences forces with the ugliest anti-integration backlash of the civil rights era; Prop. 209 foes at Cal State Northridge actually invited KKK leader David Duke to campus to speak on behalf of the measure.
But support for Prop. 209 was broad and deep, and included many influential figures in business and politics. Most notably, its chief sponsor, Republican governor Pete Wilson, effectively countered the other side's race-baiting by arguing that those fighting to make race a nonfactor in government decision making were abiding by the civil rights crusade's true values. "It is time for those who have resisted Prop. 209 to acknowledge that equal rights under law, not special preferences, is the law of the land," he declared. "A measure that eliminates any form of discrimination based on race and gender violates no one's constitutional rights."
In the end, 209 passed comfortably, with 54 percent of the vote. Republican Party support was "vital," recalls Connerly. "They provided us with a lot of foot soldiers and, even more essential, a critical mass of support-because nobody ever likes to be left standing alone, especially when it comes to race."
The same scenario played out in Washington State in 1998, where Connerly led the fight for that state's anti-preferences measure, I-200. While some Republican moderates, including former governor Dan Evans, opposed the initiative, the conservative-controlled state GOP enthusiastically endorsed it; and though foes outspent supporters by nearly three to one-with such liberal-leaning corporate Goliaths as Eddie Bauer, Microsoft, and Starbucks contributing heavily to the "No on 200" campaign-the initiative passed by a whopping 58 to 42 percent. The margin is even more impressive when examined in its particulars. According to exit polls, 80 percent of Republicans supported I-200, but so did 62 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats. In fact, Democratic senator Patty Murray was one of the measure's most vocal critics, and 43 percent of her supporters voted for it.
There's little evidence of any change in public attitudes about racial preferences since. The Republican rank and file remains especially united: a poll of Michigan GOP voters earlier this year, for instance, showed 78 percent backing the MCRI. So the party's turnabout on the issue can seem bewildering.
The shift on preferences clearly involves naked political calculation. With a mere 8 percent of blacks voting GOP in 2004, party leaders have made no secret of their eagerness to try to splinter the most reliable of Democratic voting blocs. Over the last year and a half, party chairman Ken Mehlman has appeared before numerous black audiences, preaching the virtues of Republicanism. As the New York Times noted in a lengthy and laudatory piece on Mehlman in July, the GOP chairman believes that "Republican advocacy of economic policies that would give more power to individuals rather than to government-like health saving accounts-would appeal to middle-class black voters as much as it would to whites."
All well and good. But as the Times (approvingly) points out, Mehlman's outreach agenda hardly ends there. He has also repeatedly "apologized for what he described as the racially polarized politics of some Republicans over the past 25 years" and for "what civil rights leaders view as decades of racial politics practiced or countenanced by Republicans. One example they point to is the first President Bush's use of the escape of Willie Horton, a black convicted murderer, to portray his Democratic opponent in the 1988 election, Michael S. Dukakis, as soft on crime."
That Republicans have long cynically exploited race is a given for the Times's "civil rights leaders" and liberals in general. But that the Republican chairman now accepts such a proposition is astonishing. In fact, it's easy to make the case that, in recent years, the civil rights establishment and its Democratic allies have been the true cynics-and effective ones-in playing the race card to achieve electoral and policy ends. One can argue that the Horton ad, tough as it was, made a legitimate point, highlighting a significant Dukakis policy failure. But no such claim would be possible about the ad that the NAACP produced in 2000, linking George W. Bush to the brutal murder of a black man, James Byrd, by racist thugs. Consider, too, the shameless smear campaign that Senate liberals (with a substantial assist from the mainstream media) waged against Judge Charles Pickering, a man who admirably stood up for civil rights in Mississippi at a time when few whites did so, yet who now found himself portrayed as soft on cross burners and thus unfit for a seat on the Fifth Circuit Court.
But another reality has also prompted the Republican shift on race: race remains the most volatile and, for white politicians, the most terrifying issue in American life. The mere hint of a "racism" charge transforms even normally principled leaders into panderers and cowards.
The brilliant social critic Shelby Steele gives the best explanation for this fear. Of mixed race himself, Steele writes of the paramount role that "white guilt" plays in contemporary American race relations. Conscious of the stain of the nation's discriminatory past, whites often feel a powerful need "to demonstrate to the world that they're not bigots." They do so most readily by deferring, at least publicly, to the civil rights establishment on matters of racial justice.
Ward Connerly has repeatedly witnessed this dynamic at work firsthand. "I've often had the experience of speaking in a room of 100 people, and knowing that 99 of them agree with me," he says. "But if there's one angry black person in the audience who disagrees, that person controls the room. He'll go on about the last 400 years, and institutional racism, and 'driving while black,' and the other 99 will just sit there and fold like a cheap accordion."
As official Republican support has fallen away, it is largely black conservatives like Connerly and Steele who have continued to lead the challenge to government-sanctioned discrimination. Unburdened by white guilt, keenly attuned to the damage that the preferences regime has done not only to society at large but to its purported beneficiaries, they do not hesitate to speak uncomfortable truths that conventional politicians shun. They passionately argue that racial preferences, by their very nature, convey the message that-unlike other Americans-blacks can't succeed by merit; that even as they encourage blacks to wrap themselves in the mantle of victimhood, preferences stigmatize all black achievement as illegitimate. Worse still, the racial spoils system has done nothing to help those whose lives are in the most desperate disarray: the black urban underclass.
"What affirmative action says is that blacks are fundamentally deficient and in need of special compensation based on events none of us even lived through," asserts columnist and radio talk-show host Mychal Massie. "I frankly have to wonder whether those who continue to countenance racial preferences truly even care about the problems plaguing black America, because they obviously don't care whether it works. It does nothing, nothing, to address out-of-wedlock births, fatherlessness, the illiteracy rate, attitudes about education, any of the issues that are destroying the black community in the country. It only allows those who support it to feel virtuous while they avoid facing those issues."
Adds Massie: "It is frankly inconceivable to me that anyone who claims to believe in fairness would countenance that people in Michigan are being denied a seat in the classroom based on nothing more than the fact that they're white. That is just as vile as it was when Bull Connor and Orval Faubus locked people out because they were black."
It was an old-fashioned liberal, a veteran philosophy professor at the University of Michigan named Carl Cohen, who set in motion the events that eventually led to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. A former head of the state ACLU and a vigorous defender of individual rights, Cohen filed a Freedom of Information request in 1996 that forced the university to lay bare its admissions procedures. The evidence showed not only that university officials "had discriminated by race but that they intended to do so, they made no bones about it," Cohen says. Indeed, the documents revealed that the admissions office had two distinct tracks: one for whites and the other for protected minorities.
Within months of the revelation, both the undergraduate division of the university and the law school faced legal challenges. The 17-year-old daughter of a police sergeant in a working-class Detroit suburb and the first in her family aiming for college, Jennifer Gratz had been turned down by the Ann Arbor campus that she'd long dreamed of attending in favor of "some friends of mine, kids I sat next to in class," who clearly didn't measure up to her academically. "I really had trouble at first believing they would do that," she says now, laughing at her naivety. "It was so against everything I'd been taught was right-that you treat everyone fairly and equally." In short order, she signed on as a plaintiff.
By the time the Supreme Court handed down its twin decisions in Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, Gratz had long since graduated from college-at the University of Michigan's less prestigious Dearborn campus. By allowing the university in effect to continue to use race as a factor in admissions-and a recent study from the Center for Equal Opportunity found the school's discrimination against white and Asian applicants to be worse than ever-those rulings sparked the next phase of the battle against preferences: the push to institute a state constitutional ban, via the MCRI.
For preference foes, the Supreme Court battle was a disappointment in another crucial respect: it signaled the Bush administration's abandonment of the cause. True, the administration, acting ostensibly on behalf of Gratz and the others unfairly denied admission to the university, submitted two amicus curiae briefs to the court, arguing that the University of Michigan's quota-based admissions system was "plainly unconstitutional." But the briefs also provided key fodder for the other side by agreeing that "diversity," that vague feel-good catchall that liberals have enshrined as a primary good, "is an important and entirely legitimate government objective."
As journalist Christopher Caldwell noted at the time, "The Bush memos are the most important substantive defense of affirmative action ever issued by a sitting president. If the Court accepts the president's reasoning, it will have rescued affirmative action from what appeared to be a terminal constitutional illogic. More than that-it will have secured for this rickety program an indefinite constitutional legitimacy." Caldwell proved prescient, the administration's "diversity" argument being precisely the one that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor cited for her pivotal vote in the 5-4 decision. "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized," O'Connor declared, writing for the majority.
Opinion divides on the anti-preferences side about who bears the greatest responsibility for the administration's revised affirmative-action stance. According to Terrence Pell, lead attorney for the Center for Individual Rights, which represented the plaintiffs in the U-M cases, "We'd been assured the Justice Department was going to take a strong position that diversity was not a compelling interest and that [then-solicitor general] Ted Olson's shop had already written a brief taking on the diversity rationale. But this started a huge fight and [White House counsel] Alberto Gonzales put his foot down and forced the change in direction."
Ward Connerly, who has again helped lead the fight against preferences in Michigan, speculates that the administration's skittishness on the issue goes even higher. He recalls that when he first encountered then-governor George W. Bush in Texas, the future president was "extremely open" on the issue of preferences. "He threw his arm around me and said, 'I want you to come up to the mansion, we've got to get together and talk about this.' And I thought, 'Wow, this is great,' " Connerly recalls. But when he tried to follow up, Connerly recounts, "I was told that Karl Rove doesn't think that's a good idea right now, we'll get back to you later. To this day, it's never happened."
For the first five years of his presidency, Bush refused to appear before the NAACP's annual convention, citing, as he did in 2004, "the rhetoric and the names they've called me." That vituperation has continued unabated-perhaps even escalated. "Their idea of equal rights," NAACP chairman Julian Bond said of Republicans this past February, "is the American flag and the Confederate swastika flying side by side." Nonetheless, the president has now made his peace with the organization. In a platitude-heavy address to its 2006 convention, he spoke of how "racism still lingers in America" and referred warmly to Jesse Jackson and Julian Bond. "I understand that many African-Americans distrust my political party," he added. "I want to change the relationship."
There's no indication, though, that a changed relationship will happen anytime soon. As Illinois senator Barack Obama, a Harvard Law School pal of GOP chairman Mehlman, told the New York Times, "The agenda of the Republican Party keeps getting in the way of that outreach." Or, to put it more bluntly, it is impossible to out-pander the Democrats.
In fact, a pandering Republican approach is just as likely to put off many voters, including blacks who might otherwise find the party's economic and social policies attractive. Says Connerly, "Deep down, black people deeply resent being treated like children. Ultimately, the way to appeal to blacks is the same way you do to whites, by showing you believe in things and fighting for them."
What the party's revised stance on race has done-aside from bolstering a civil rights establishment whose prestige had sharply declined and that remains unremittingly hostile to all that the Republican Party stands for-is leave longtime allies more vulnerable than ever to the toxic charge of "racism."
Take the telltale case of William Bennett, the former education secretary and drug czar, who found himself under assault last October for comments he made on his popular radio talk show. Discussing the controversial claim, set forth in Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's best-selling book Freakonomics, that the national crime drop in recent years results in part from the prevalence of abortion among blacks, who commit crimes at a higher rate than the national average, Bennett, an abortion foe, acknowledged that "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could; if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." But-he continued-"that would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do."
Bennett's meaning was clear as could be, though that didn't stop the likes of Howard Dean ("Bill Bennett's hateful, inflammatory remarks regarding African-Americans are simply inexcusable") and Harry Reid (he should "issue an immediate apology not only to African-Americans but to the nation") from predictably, and no doubt deliberately, misreading it. What was startling, though, was the White House's implicit endorsement of Democratic demagoguery, with presidential press secretary Scott McClellan gravely intoning, "The President believes the comments were not appropriate."
In Michigan, those waging the campaign for colorblind admissions and hiring find themselves similarly isolated. The anti-MCRI coalition lists more than 180 sponsoring organizations, from the NAACP, the ACLU, and the League of Women Voters to the Michigan Catholic Conference, the Arab American Institute, and the YWCA. Bankrolling the pro-affirmative-action forces are, among other corporate giants, the Big Three automakers. The state's Democratic governor, Jennifer Granholm, up for reelection, voices strong support for preferences, and Detroit's Sharpton-like mayor Kwame Kilpatrick backs them even more vociferously.
Kilpatrick got so carried away a few months back that he unwittingly echoed George Wallace at the schoolhouse door, declaiming: "There will be affirmative action here today, there will be affirmative action here tomorrow, there will be affirmative action in our state forever!"
But none of that opposition is likely to carry as much weight on election day as the stance struck by Granholm's Republican rival, Amway heir Dick De Vos. Though not formally listed as part of the pro-affirmative-action coalition-and he surely wishes that the issue would just go away, so he could run mainly on Michigan's disastrous economy-De Vos's tepid comments in opposition to the MCRI wind up trumpeted at every opportunity by its foes.
Bereft of institutional support, the MCRI runs on a shoestring, operating out of executive director Gratz's apartment outside Lansing, where the campaign's three young full-time workers sleep on the floor. Campaign manager Doug Tietz is only semi-facetious when he points to a state map and remarks, "This section here represents 6 million people-Clark's in charge of that-and John handles this area, 4 million people."
The lopsided disparity in resources has taken its toll, with the pro-MCRI forces having to counter not only a sustained ad campaign misrepresenting the measure's intent but also a series of legal assaults aimed at keeping it off the ballot. As in the earlier campaigns in California and Washington, the pro-preferences side has sought to put the focus on sex instead of race, aggressively targeting women in commercials that enumerate the alleged ways that the MCRI will hurt them. "What they say is so unbelievably false, it makes your jaw drop," complains Gratz. "MCRI would close breast cancer screening centers? Eliminate girls' sports teams? It's just ludicrous. What it would do is make sure girls applying to college aren't penalized if their skin's the wrong color."
Spearheading the effort to deny the MCRI ballot access has been a group called By Any Means Necessary, led by radical white activists but overwhelmingly manned by young blacks. Fitting its name, BAMN hasn't hesitated to use threats and outright intimidation to achieve its ends. On several occasions, members have set upon Gratz, cursing and spitting in her face; not long ago, she discovered that someone had tampered with her car's brakes. At the state Board of Canvassers meeting where MCRI's petitions were to be certified as valid, BAMN members caused such mayhem-screaming invective and overturning a table-that the cowed commissioners actually refused to do their job. The courts subsequently had to certify the measure for the ballot.
BAMN's main legal argument claimed that MCRI signature gatherers fooled innumerable black voters into signing the group's petitions by misrepresenting the initiative as pro-affirmative-action-an implausible contention, given the clear description of the measure's intent at the top of every petition. In any case, the anti-preferences campaign collected a record 508,000-plus signatures. Since certification required only 317,517 signatures, the measure would have qualified even if officials had disallowed every conceivable disputed signature.
Even after state courts had repeatedly shot down its challenges, though, BAMN, joined by Mayor Kilpatrick, went to federal court, charging the MCRI with violating the Voting Rights Act. In a courtroom packed with BAMN's young and obstreperous rank and file this August, the judge hearing the case, Arthur Tarnow-an NAACP member, former legal aid lawyer, and Clinton appointee-made little effort to hide his hostility toward the MCRI. Even as he severely limited the MCRI attorneys' ability to question BAMN witnesses who claimed that signature gatherers had hoodwinked them, he gave BAMN's attorneys free rein to rip into Gratz and the MCRI.
While finally even Tarnow could not find any Voting Rights Act grounds on which to strike the MCRI from the ballot-a move that almost surely would have been overturned on appeal-his ruling gave its foes a massive cudgel with which to beat it down, not only agreeing with BAMN's inflammatory charges but expanding on them. The MCRI, he wrote, had sought to deceive not just blacks but "appears to have targeted all Michigan voters for deception without regard to race."
A year ago, polls showed the MCRI winning easily with upward of 60 percent. Now the numbers have tightened, with one of the most recent polls showing it in a dead heat, and the other showing it ahead by four points.
But whatever the result-and voters notoriously lie to pollsters on issues involving race-the party's role in the contest is something many thoughtful Republicans will regard with sorrow. If the MCRI loses, it will demonstrate yet again the damage done by the party's flight from principle; if it wins, it will stand as even more evidence that the GOP is on the wrong side not only of its base, but of history.
"It truly makes you yearn for a return of leaders like Ronald Reagan or Pete Wilson," says Connerly of recent events in Michigan. "People who knew what they believed and weren't afraid to act on their beliefs. You really have to wonder where people like that have gone." -30-
Last Known Link to the City Journal story
Retreat on Affirmative Action?
by Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed Nov. 28, 2006
The morning after Michigan voters approved a measure to bar affirmative action in public colleges and universities, University of Michigan officials refused to talk about how the university might carry out the ban. Instead, at a speech that afternoon on the Ann Arbor campus, President Mary Sue Coleman said that the university was seriously considering going to court to block Proposition 2, as the measure is known.
"I believe there are serious questions as to whether this initiative is lawful, particularly as it pertains to higher education," Coleman said. "I have asked our attorneys for their full and undivided support in defending diversity at the University of Michigan. I will immediately begin exploring legal action concerning this initiative." Coleman's speech drew praise from minority students and many educators who support affirmative action. It was also harshly attacked by many others in the state, who said it was wrong for a public university to try to defy the 58 percent of the state's voters who had expressed their opposition to affirmative action.
A few weeks later, with the clock ticking toward the December 22 date when Proposition 2 takes effect, the university is taking a very different line. No lawsuits have been filed, and the university now is talking about carrying out the measure. In an e-mail message to students and faculty members last week, Coleman invited ideas on how to promote diversity within the new constraints of Proposition 2.
Officially, the university says that nothing has changed. In her speech right after the vote, Coleman said that the university would not violate state law, and in her more recent e-mail, she said that the university is continuing to explore its legal options.
But both critics and defenders of affirmative action see a significant shift, in that the university that once wouldn't talk about carrying out Proposition 2 is now doing just that.
"That [post-election] speech was clearly just for posturing," said Sharon L. Browne, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation, which opposes affirmative action and has pledged to defend any legal challenge the university brings.
Agreeing with the Pacific Legal Foundation that the university has changed its stance is a group that pretty much never agrees with the Pacific Legal Foundation: the By Any Means Necessary Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action. "What the university is doing now is really lame. Coleman gave a good speech, but now they aren't doing anything," said Donna Stern, a spokeswoman for the group, which has filed its own suit to block Proposition 2. "What they are now saying is completely inadequate."
Julie Peterson, a spokeswoman for Michigan, said that the university's critics are misreading what is going on, and that the new effort to come up with ideas for carrying out Proposition 2 is "not instead of, but parallel to" any possible legal action. "Our commitment to diversity is as strong as ever," she said.
Even though Proposition 2 applied to all public colleges in the state, the University of Michigan's handling of the issue remains key. Because the university's admissions are by far the most competitive in the state and because of the university's role in defending affirmative action from previous legal challenges, its stance is attracting more attention that that of any other university.
At the crux of the debate is whether the university has good legal options to oppose Proposition 2. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, as the measure is formally known, faced a series of legal challenges before it ended up on the November ballot. The most serious challenges came from groups charging that citizens were deceived about the measure and signed the petitions to place it on the ballot without understanding what they were doing. In the end, those criticisms were set aside and the measure was placed on the ballot.
A decade ago, when California voters approved a similar measure, it was challenged in federal court, but those challenges were turned back and the affirmative action ban remained in place. As a result of that experience, some legal experts - including some who back affirmative action and supported the university's successful defense of affirmative action before the U.S. Supreme Court - questioned privately whether a legal challenge could succeed. At the point that Coleman raised the possibility of a suit, she did not detail the grounds, and she has not done so since.
By Any Means Necessary argues that the university could preserve its admissions policies if it argued that any system without affirmative action would yield immediate discrimination against black and some other minority students. This would require the university to shift from an argument based on the educational value of diversity (an argument that the U.S. Supreme Court accepted) to an argument "based on equality," Stern said.
"The university hasn't been arguing that black students are intellectually equal. It was saying 'we need to let some black students in for diversity,' " said Stern. "The university will not admit that standardized tests that it uses are biased. Every admissions officer in the country knows that they are biased," she added.
As to the argument that the university shouldn't legally challenge a measure approved by such a large share of the voters, Stern attributed the 58 percent margin to "white men voting to preserve white privilege" and said "if it had been left to the electorate in Alabama and Missisippi on whether to eliminate Jim Crow, we woudn't have eliminated Jim Crow."
Browne of the Pacific Legal Foundation scoffed at the idea that any legal challenge would get very far. Proposition 2 is "the mirror image" of California's measure, Browne said. She noted that the University of Michigan's win at the Supreme Court in 2003 did not require affirmative action, but said that colleges could decide to use it. Since there is no federal obligation, she said, states are free "to provide more protection" against the use of any racial distinctions, should states want to do so.
Coleman's communication to her campus last week was toned down considerably from her earlier comments on the legal picture. A university statement said that Michigan might seek "clarification from the courts on how to interpret the impact of the amendment on U-M's core operations" and that the next legal steps have not been determined.
The emphasis of Coleman's message was that there are many ways to promote diversity, regardless of Proposition 2, and that the university's commitment to diversity need not be diminished. She invited people to submit any reasonable idea - rough or detailed, predictable or unconventional. She predicted that the institution would find ways to make Michigan a place that "reflects the richness of the world."
Aside from a broad challenge to Proposition 2, the university has also talked about seeking a stay of some sort, so that the admissions cycle taking place during this academic year could be consistent. Michigan uses a rolling admissions system, so not only will the university be reviewing applications before and after Proposition 2 takes effect, but it will be admitting or rejecting applicants before and after. In her post-election speech, Coleman said: "We believe we have the right, indeed the obligation, to complete this process using our existing policies. It would be unfair and wrong for us to review students' applications using two sets of criteria, and we will ask the courts to affirm that we may finish this process using the policies we currently have in place."
Peterson, the spokeswoman, confirmed that some admissions decisions have already gone out, and said she couldn't say what would change on December 22, pending the outcome of any legal decisions the university makes.
Browne said that the Pacific Legal Foundation would oppose not only a broad challenge to Proposition 2, but any request for a delay, even to keep this year's admissions cycle. "There's no reason why, in 45 days, the university couldn't have implemented a new admissions system," she said.
As for the fairness of admitting some students under one system and others under another, for the same year, Browne said: "Being admitted based on your qualifications without regard to race seems to be a very fair admissions policy." -30-
Last Known Link to Inside Higher Ed story
New York Post Editorial
November 26, 2006 -- University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman is offering students an interesting lesson: Never let the law prevail over your own vanity.
Just one day after Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal 2 - aka the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative - thereby ending racial and gender preferences in the state's public sector, Coleman said she'll do everything possible to avoid incorporating racial equality into her school's admissions policies.
"We believe we have the right, indeed the obligation, to complete this process using our existing [racially discriminatory] policies," Coleman said, adding, "It would be unfair and wrong for us to review students' applications using two sets of criteria."
Bizarre: "Two sets of criteria" is what racial preferences are all about.
For Coleman - who, like so many university administrators, uses the banner of "diversity" and its sister "multiculturalism" to further a narrow, reductive ideological agenda at the expense of academic excellence - Prop 2 presents a kind of existential crisis.
"I will not stand by while the very heart and soul of this great university is threatened," Coleman said. "We are Michigan and we are diversity."
The measure threatens Ann Arbor's "heart and soul" thusly:
Hard to believe that such a common-sense prescriptive has generated such vehemence. Though, perhaps not: Racial pandering has proven a potent political force.
In the months preceding Election Day, Michigan Democrats, Republicans and more than 200 special-interest groups joined hands in opposing Prop 2, outspending proponents 3-to-1.
In the final week, the reform's supporters ran out of cash altogether, leaving them unable to respond as opponents likened the measure to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
Still, voters passed Prop 2 by a wide margin - 58 percent for, 42 percent against.
The lesson? Racial pandering is a political loser - even in blue states like Michigan.
Still, perhaps for fear of being labeled racist, pols refuse to join this popular embrace of racial equality.
Here in New York City, the Fire Department has become so intoxicated in its quest for racial diversity that it's letting standards fall by the wayside: The college credits demanded of new recruits have been halved; the physical fitness exam has been made easier.
But let's be clear: When government pursues diversity for its own sake, it erodes a fundamental American principle - that of equal standing before the law.
Plus which, voters hate it.
That's the lesson from the great state of Michigan. -30-
Last Known Link to New York Post editorial
Election silver lining
By Henry Payne/Shikha Dalmia
Published November 22, 2006
While Election Day dealt a blow to Republican power in Washington, it breathed new life into a core conservative issue: equal opportunity. The stunning victory of Michigan's Proposal 2 -- the ballot initiative banning racial preferences in government employment, education and contracts -- has not commanded national headlines. Yet it will potentially trigger similar initiatives in other states and revive the cause of a colorblind society, proving one of this election's most momentous developments.
Jennifer Gratz, director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) which spearheaded the campaign, says Proposition 2's resounding victory is "a national wakeup call." Michigan's win also comes at the 10-year anniversary of a similar initiative in California, which has experienced none of the trauma predicted by opponents, but has benefited all groups in expected -- and unexpected -- ways.
Proposition 2's 16-point landslide is especially amazing given the Goliath-sized machinery it confronted in Michigan. Proposition 2 was a political orphan whose principal author, Ward Connerly -- a black businessman who had successfully spearheaded the California effort in 1996 -- was shunned by the entire political, business, academic and media establishment in Michigan.
That the initiative overcame such formidable opposition demonstrates the grass-roots power of the issue -- as well as the disconnect of political elites. "Americans still take seriously the ideal of equal opportunity, even if their leaders don't," notes MCRI's Miss Gratz, who sued the University in Michigan right up to the Supreme Court when the university passed her over in favor of less qualified minority candidates.
Mr. Connerly now awaits the verdict of the Supreme Court in two related cases from Seattle, Washington and Louisville challenging school districts that assign students to schools with an eye toward maintaining a racial balance. Should the Supreme Court show a willingness to revisit its U-M ruling allowing public universities to give race some consideration in admissions, Mr. Connerly maintains he would re-evaluate the ballot route. If not, he is considering two dozen states including Oregon, Missouri and Illinois that might be good candidates for similar initiatives.
Mr. Connerly's crusade should be helped by the fact that, a decade after California passed Proposition 209 and embraced race-neutral policies, minority progress has advanced -- not stopped -- in that state.
Black and Hispanic admissions in elite colleges like UC-Berkeley and UC-Los Angeles have dropped, to be sure. But they have grown in less elite colleges where minorities are more able to compete. UC-Riverside and UC-Santa Cruz, for example, have seen significant jumps in black enrollment, with Riverside numbers alone up 240 percent. More importantly, minority graduation rates have grown.
At UC-San Diego, where minority admissions dropped somewhat after Proposition 209, graduation rates have nearly doubled for blacks and Hispanics. At the same time, white and Asian graduation rates have remained the same. "This is almost certainly due largely to the reduction of preferences," notes UCLA law professor Richard Sander, a longtime civil rights activist who has studied affirmative action in higher ed. "The five and six-year grad rates for minorities get pretty close to the white rates [within five points], which of course means that differences in academic performance have also narrowed a lot." Compare this to the University of Michigan where minority grad rates lag by 17 points.
"If we looked at actual BAs produced, rather than entering freshmen, the post-209 numbers for blacks and Hispanics would look even better," adds Mr. Sander. This should be of interest to American corporations -- many of whom have jumped on the preferences bandwagon -- who worry that affirmative action bans cost them talent. In fact, as California vividly illustrates, racial preferences have been a barrier to qualified graduates.
Another positive result of Proposition 209 has been its effect on academic outreach to the poor. Freed of the shackles of race-driven admissions, a study by the Pacific Legal Foundation's Eryn Hadley found elite schools have refocused resources on preparing "K-12 students for college life. The UC system now offers many race-neutral programs for individual students who are disadvantaged or attend low performing schools."
Furthermore, the seats vacated by minorities in Berkeley and University of California-Los Angeles did not result in lily-white campuses, as Proposition 209's opponents had predicted. Rather, the biggest portion went to Asian-Americans.
It is impossible to predict all the adjustments that race-neutral policies might trigger in each state Mr. Connerly targets. In Michigan, for instance, along with Asians, one might expect Arab American numbers to rise at U-M, given that the state is home to one of the largest Arab populations outside the Middle East.
But for now the political elites of both parties face this stark choice: They can continue to scoff at the cause of racial neutrality and alienate the grass-roots -- or do an about-turn and reconnect with voters. Either way, Proposition 2's success has shown, the movement for a colorblind society will march forward. -30-
Henry Payne is a free-lance writer and an editorial cartoonist at the Detroit News. Shikha Dalmia is a senior analyst at the Reason Foundation.
Last Known Link to Washington Times story
Michigan Voters Defy The Establishment
By Stuart Taylor Jr., National Journal Monday, Nov. 20, 2006
A November 7 ballot proposal in Michigan drew passionate attacks from the Democratic Party, Big Business, unions, universities, the major newspapers, and religious, civic, and civil-rights groups. It drew tepid opposition even from the state's top Republicans.
Among the attacks:
What is this horrible monstrosity? And why did Michigan's voters adopt it by 58 percent to 42 percent after a campaign in which opponents outspent supporters by 4-to-1?
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, as supporters call it, amends the state constitution by outlawing racial discrimination against Asians and whites -- as well as against blacks and Hispanics -- in certain public programs. This is what Congress thought it had done in the 1964 Civil Rights Act before the courts went to work on it.
The straightforward language of MCRI's central provision is almost identical to ballot initiatives adopted by California's voters in 1996 and Washington's in 1998: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."
The above-quoted claims about MCRI's supposed effects are among many flat-out lies (in my view) that opponents told, especially to mislead women into thinking that MCRI would hurt them. The opposition campaign consisted mainly of misleading spin, mindless hysteria, and even thuggish intimidation. Examples:
Well. Ending the state's regime of discrimination against whites, Asians -- who have been hit hardest by racial preferences -- and boys does have its costs. But to speak of tearing out the university's heart and soul is idiocy. And to speak of admitting the best-qualified students as the "path of mediocrity" is Orwellian.
Speaking as a supporter of using modest racial preferences to promote integration of our top schools and other elite institutions, I nonetheless applaud MCRI's adoption for a number of reasons.
None of this is to deny that many people have honest reasons for opposing MCRI. An honest anti-MCRI campaign would have pointed out that:
This last effect is highly regrettable. The underlying cause is even more regrettable: The vast majority of black and Hispanic kids are so badly educated as to be unprepared for college-level work. So schools have used extreme racial double standards to reach their current numbers.
The Michigan preference regime, for example, has approximated subtracting a full grade point from the high school GPA of every Asian and white applicant, treating her A's as B's, her B's as C's, and so on. The median SAT for students admitted in 2005 was 1,160 for blacks, 1,260 for Hispanics, 1,350 for whites, and 1,400 for Asians. And most black students do worse in college than whites with the same SAT scores.
To evade the massive proof of discrimination, Michigan officials use a deceptive dodge. Stressing the importance of factors such as teacher recommendations and essays, officials suggest that these subjective measures of merit account for the vast racial disparities in grades and scores.
But this logic necessarily rests on an unstated assumption that blacks and Hispanics are far better than Asians and whites on these subjective measures -- a naked racial stereotype for which no evidence has ever been cited.
An honest campaign might well have led to MCRI's approval by even more than the 2-1 ratio it once enjoyed in polls. As it was, the 58-percent-to-42-percent victory -- over the opposition of the entire establishment and in the face of a Democratic tide -- is stunning evidence that the American people don't buy the racial-preference snake oil. "If we can win in Michigan, I think we can win anywhere," Ward Connerly, the conservative black businessman who helped spearhead the 2006 Michigan campaign as well as the 1996 California campaign, told reporters.
So why did Republican leaders in Michigan abandon their party's erstwhile principles and join the corporate elite in promoting racial and gender preferences? And why has President Bush done the same? This capitulation mainly represents a feeble effort to buy protection against being demonized as racist by the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and their media enablers.
On no major issue has America's electorate so resoundingly and repeatedly rejected a policy embraced with such unanimity by the establishment. The electorate is right. The establishment is wrong. -30-
-- Stuart Taylor Jr. is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal magazine, where "Opening Argument" appears. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Known Link to the National Journal story
Rights initiative started with a call to Minnesota
Katherine Kersten, Star Tribune, Nov. 19, 2006
Michigan voters caused a legal earthquake when they passed the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on Nov. 7. The effort, called the MCRI, amended Michigan's constitution to ban public institutions from giving preferential treatment in employment, education or contracting to groups or individuals based on their race, gender or ethnicity.
Many Minnesotans may not know that it all began with two Minnesota lawyers: Kirk Kolbo and Larry Purdy of the Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand law firm in Minneapolis.
Kolbo remembers the 1997 call that started the ball rolling. A law school classmate, Mike McDonald of the Center for Individual Rights in Washington, phoned to ask him to represent white plaintiffs who believed they had been denied admission to the University of Michigan undergraduate or law schools because of their race.
"Mike couldn't find a law firm in Michigan to take on an institution as large and influential as the University of Michigan," says Kolbo. "Apparently, he thought that Minnesota was just a cab ride away." Kolbo examined admissions data that a Michigan philosophy professor, Carl Cohen, had gathered. Cohen -- an old-line liberal -- was a longtime ACLU activist and NAACP member, and had worked to end racial discrimination in admissions at the University of Miami while a student there in the late 1940s.
"Carl believed that race should never matter," says Purdy. "He was appalled to discover that his beloved University of Michigan was engaged in discrimination on the basis of race."
After reviewing the evidence, Kolbo concluded that the University of Michigan was violating a bedrock American principle: equality before the law. He took on two cases, one involving undergraduate admissions and the other the law school, on a no-fee basis, and Purdy became involved later. "We expected it to be easy -- just filing a couple of briefs -- because the university openly admitted its discrimination," Kolbo explains. "In fact, we litigated for six years, all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court."
Kolbo and Purdy faced an uphill battle. The cases -- Gratz vs. Bollinger and Grutter vs. Bollinger -- set a Supreme Court record for briefs by non-interested parties, with a heavy majority supporting the university, Purdy says. "Kirk and I found ourselves tag-teaming as David, going against an undeniable Goliath," he adds.
In 2003, the court in Gratz struck down Michigan's undergraduate admissions policy, which awarded points for race to preferred minorities. In a 5-4 ruling in Grutter, however, it ruled that the law school could use racial preferences as a factor in achieving "diversity."
After the rulings, Jennifer Gratz, a lead plaintiff in the undergraduate case, decided to work to extend equality before the law across the state. She helped to launch the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative and acted as director, while Carl Cohen served on an advisory committee. Like Kolbo and Purdy, they faced overwhelming opposition from the political, legal and business establishments. The League of Women Voters, unions and special interest groups such as AARP lined up against the initiative. The Democratic Party opposed it, along with many prominent Republicans, including 2006 gubernatorial candidate Dick DeVos. Initiative opponents outspent advocates by 5 to 1. Their scare tactics included claims that MCRI could end state funding for breast cancer screening and battered women's shelters.
One widely aired ad depicted MCRI as a disaster comparable to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. But on Election Day, the voters embraced the MCRI. "The people of Michigan have now made clear their desire to live in a community free from racial discrimination," says Purdy.
True to form, opponents promptly filed a lawsuit to challenge MCRI in court. The university has announced that it will also explore its legal options.
Advocates of racial preferences often claim that race-blind policies are really a ruse to preserve white privilege. In fact, says Purdy, the group that benefits most from equality before the law in admissions is Asian-Americans. "As a group, Asian-Americans academically outperform every other ethnic group," Purdy points out. "They are held to a higher standard, and so they suffer the most penalties when race is used as an admissions factor."
Kolbo and Purdy marvel at what has happened nine years after taking a call from a long-shot client. "The principle is so simple," says Kolbo. "The 1964 Civil Rights law said race doesn't matter, nor can it matter."
In part, because of the work of two Minneapolis lawyers, that is now the law of the land in Michigan. -30-
Last Known Link to the Star Tribune story
JOHN FUND ON THE TRAIL
The University of Michigan's president does her best George Wallace impersonation.
Wall Street Journal Editorial, Monday November 20, 2006 12:01 a.m.
Michigan voters struck a blow for equality this month, when 58% of them approved an amendment to the state constitution banning racial discrimination in public universities and contracting. Almost identical measures have previously passed by similar majorities in California and Washington state. That means the original meaning of the 1964 Civil Rights Act--that racial discrimination of any kind is illegal--has won reaffirmation in three liberal states, none of which have voted for a Republican for president since 1988. Supporters now plan to carry the fight to other states.
From the outraged cries of affirmative action diehards, you would think the dark night of fascism was descending with the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative. Mary Sue Coleman is president of the University of Michigan, which has already spent millions of taxpayers' dollars defending its racial preferences in courts. She addressed what Tom Bray of the Detroit News called "a howling mob of hundreds of student and faculty protestors" last week. "Diversity matters at Michigan," she declared. "It matters today, and it will matter tomorrow." Echoes of George Wallace, who in 1963 declared from the steps of Alabama's Capitol: "I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."
Ms. Coleman isn't the only Michigan official to employ Wallace-style rhetoric against MCRI. Detroit's Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told a fundraiser last April that the measure would usher in an era of racial prejudice. "Bring it on!" he bellowed. "We will affirm to the world that affirmative action will be here today, it will be here tomorrow, and there will be affirmative action in the state forever."
Another leader in Michigan's massive resistance is Karen Moss, the executive director of the state ACLU. "I do think it's necessary for the courts to slow this thing down and . . . interpret some of the language," she told the Washington Post. That "thing" is an amendment that simply states: "The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting." As the blog Discriminations.us notes, "What part of that language does the ACLU find vague or unclear and in need of "interpretation'?"
Let's be clear what is really at stake here. Racial preferences were intended to help disadvantaged minorities, but they have turned into a spoils system for the privileged. "Most go to children of powerful politicians, civil-rights activists, and other relatively well-off blacks and Hispanics," notes Stuart Taylor of National Journal. "This does nothing for the people most in need of help, who lack the minimal qualifications to get into the game."
School choice and other dramatic efforts to improve the quality of K-12 education would do far more to improve the chances of minorities entering and finishing college than any racial set-asides. Indeed, school choice would represent genuine "affirmative action" in favor of millions of disadvantaged kids trapped in failing schools.
Despite all the demagoguery and misrepresentations hurled at the MCRI, a CNN exit poll of 1,955 Michigan voters showed that the measure had widespread appeal across many demographic groups. A majority of both sexes voted for MCRI, as did 40% of self-described liberals and Democrats. Among nonwhite voters, 30% of men and 18% of women voted "yes."
The public sentiment against racial preferences is in accord with the overwhelming belief of the lawmakers who passed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They thought they were ending segregation, not sanctioning new race-conscious violations of the Constitution. But it didn't take long for activist courts and bureaucrats to claim the act actually authorized the creation of preference programs.
In recent years, the courts have been slowly inching back towards a belief that the legitimate quest for diversity does not justify any and all race-conscious means to achieve it. In 2003 Jennifer Gratz, a young white woman denied admission as an undergraduate to the University of Michigan, won her case before the Supreme Court. By a vote of 6-3, the high court held that the school's undergraduate college had unconstitutionally awarded applicants a set number of points solely for not being white.
On the same day, however, the court ruled 5-4 against Barbara Grutter's suit against the University of Michigan's law school. The court decided that the law school used race as only one factor among many and upheld the view of the late Justice Lewis Powell, who held in the 1978 Bakke case that race could be used to achieve "diversity" in higher education.
Justice Sandra O'Connor, who sided with Ms. Gratz but wrote the opinion in Grutter, issued some cautionary language that supporters of affirmative action should heed: "The court expects that 25 years from now the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." After noting that institutions of higher education in California and Washington were pursuing alternatives to racial preferences, she urged that "universities in other states should draw on the most promising aspects of these race-neutral alternatives as they develop." Just last week, the now-retired Justice O'Connor was asked her opinion of MCRI's approval. She replied that it was "entirely within the right and privilege of voters" to enact a ban on racial preferences.
The blind anger that supporters of racial preferences have shown towards efforts at their reform betrays a lack of imagination. Ms. Gratz, who won her Supreme Court case against the University of Michigan and spearheaded this year's effort to ban quotas in that state, says she would be happy to explore alternatives if the opponents would sit down with her. She believes universities could look to socioeconomic factors rather than racial ones when considering applicants. Economic elements "should be taken into account, regardless of your skin color," she says.
Ms. Gratz is showing great forbearance in holding out an olive branch to her opponents. Just last June Ms. Gratz filed a report with Detroit police accusing Luke Massie, national chairman of the activist group By Any Means Necessary, of displaying a knife during a heated confrontation outside a state civil rights meeting. "It was one of several attempts to either intimidate me or attack my character," she said yesterday in an interview after a speech she gave at the National Association of Scholars meeting in Boston. She said Mr. Massie had a knife in his right pants pocket and toyed with it, pulling it halfway out of his pants but not drawing its blade. Mr. Massie denies the allegation.
What isn't in dispute is that supporters of racial preferences sometimes engage in behavior that resembles the "massive resistance" campaign that tried to preserve segregation in the South, and even led some counties to close their public schools rather than allow integration. Some supporters of preference programs in Michigan are talking about lowering state university admission standards dramatically in hopes that the university will then accept what, in their view, is the proper number of minority students.
Earlier this year, some 250 high school students staged a near riot at a hearing of the state's Board of Canvassers, which was charged with determining whether the initiative qualified for the ballot. The board's four commissioners were preparing to vote when members of Mr. Massie's group began yelling, "They say Jim Crow. We say hell no." Some 50 students began marching on the board, knocking over a table before Lansing police could stop them. Other protesters began stomping their feet, with one yelling at Paul Mitchell, an African-American commissioner, "Be a black man about this, please!"
The board adjourned for two hours only to be faced with more catcalls when they reconvened. In the end, two Republican appointees voted to place the measure on the ballot, but Mr. Mitchell voted "no," and Doyle O'Connor, the other Democratic appointee, refused to vote. Three votes were needed for the measure to secure ballot access. Eventually an appellate court had to finally order the board to do its sworn duty.
We've come a long way since 1964, when the late civil rights hero Hubert Humphrey stood on the Senate floor and told his colleagues that if the civil rights bill contained "any language which provides that an employer will have to hire on the basis of percentage or quota related to color, race, religion, or national origin, I will start eating the pages one after another, because it is not in there."
Four decades later, supporters of racial preferences imposed by government agencies are blocking legal efforts to establish the color-blind society that Martin Luther King envisioned. Dr. King's dream is alive in Michigan, and in other states, but a large number of people seem interested in stirring up a nightmare of massive resistance. Such efforts are likely not only to only fail, but to harden the public's opposition to divisive racial quotas. -30-
Last Known Link to the Wall Street Journal editorial
From the Chronicle of Higher Education November 17, 2006
Michigan Overwhelmingly Adopts Ban on Affirmative-Action Preferences
Foes of the ballot measure vow to keep fighting while supporters eye new fronts
By PETER SCHMIDT
Michigan promises to again be the focus of intense legal wrangling over affirmative action as a result of last week's passage of a state ballot proposal that bans public colleges and other state agencies from using preferences to promote diversity.
The measure, which appeared on the ballot as Proposal 2 and was known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, amended the Constitution of the Great Lakes State to prohibit state agencies and institutions from operating affirmative-action programs that grant preferences based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or gender.
Its passage comes just three years after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the consideration of race in college admissions in two landmark cases involving the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Unofficial election results showed that Proposal 2 passed with about 58 percent of the vote, a large enough majority to convince its backers that similar campaigns would succeed in other states. It was resoundingly approved despite being up against a much-better-financed opposition campaign that enlisted much of the state's economic and political establishment.
The margin of support was especially impressive considering that Democrats, who generally are much more supportive of affirmative action than Republicans, made a good enough showing at the polls to win most key elections.
"This obviously was a dramatic victory," said Ward Connerly, a prominent critic of affirmative action who helped advise the Proposal 2 campaign. Calling Michigan "a very tough state" partly because of its strong Democratic Party, Mr. Connerly said, "If we can win in Michigan, I think we can win anywhere."
Michigan is the third state in the nation to approve such a ballot initiative in the last decade. Similar measures were adopted by California in 1996 and by Washington State in 1998. Michigan's Proposal 2 passed by a larger margin than the California measure did and received about as much support from voters as the Washington State ballot initiative, despite being up against opposition that was much better financed and better organized than that faced by either of the West Coast campaigns.
Nancy Cantor, a former University of Michigan at Ann Arbor provost who is now chancellor of Syracuse University, said the result of the Michigan vote has given colleges and universities in other states reason to fear that their own affirmative-action policies will soon be challenged at the polls.
"I think that everybody knows this is not just about Michigan," Ms. Cantor said.
Riled Wolverines Opponents of Proposal 2 were disappointed but stuck to their guns. At a news conference held the day after the election, Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said she had directed the university's lawyers to give their "full and undivided support in defending diversity," and vowed to "immediately begin exploring legal action concerning this initiative."
"I will not stand by," Ms. Coleman said, "while the very heart and soul of this great university is threatened."
A separate legal challenge to Proposal 2 was filed last week by an organization that had fought hard in the federal courts and before state election officials to keep the measure off the ballot. The group, called the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (and commonly referred to as BAMN), argued in its lawsuit that Proposal 2 is discriminatory because it will result in the denial of equal opportunity to blacks, Hispanics, and women. "We don't accept the view that a state can give its universities, its local governments, its counties, and its state bodies the right to discrimination against blacks, Latinos, and women in violation of our federally guaranteed equal-rights protections," said Shanta Driver, BAMN's national spokeswoman.
The [BAMN] group will also continue its efforts through a separate lawsuit, filed in advance of the elections, to have Proposal 2 declared invalid based on BAMN's allegations that proponents of the measure had used fraudulent tactics to persuade people to sign petitions to place it on the ballot.
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee, the campaign organization that sponsored Proposal 2, has asked the Sacramento-based Pacific Legal Foundation to defend the measure against legal challenges. The Pacific Legal Foundation has experience in such matters: It successfully defended Proposition 209, California's ban on racial preferences, against a challenge similar to the one BAMN is mounting against Proposal 2, and also sued to force state agencies in California to comply with the measure.
Looking ahead to any potential legal battle over Proposal 2, Alan W. Foutz, a lawyer with the Pacific Legal Foundation, said, "We think that most of the arguments to be hurled at it already have been thoroughly vetted and rejected by the courts."
A Black or White Choice?
In an interview on election night after results made it clear that Proposal 2 had won, Jennifer Gratz, who led the campaign for the measure as executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee, said that "people in Michigan stood up to the establishment, and the principle of equal treatment under the law prevailed today."
Almost the only voting precincts in the state where Proposal 2 lost were in Detroit, which is predominantly black, and in areas around Michigan State University and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where student groups campaigned heavily against the measure.
Proposal 2 received solid support in most other parts of the state and, tellingly, garnered 57 percent of the vote in Oakland County, which was regarded as a key battleground because it includes several affluent, and heavily liberal, Detroit suburbs.
"I am surprised that it passed by the margin that it did, particularly with the strong Democratic turnout we had," said Michael A. Boulus, executive director of the Presidents' Council of the State Universities of Michigan, which opposed the measure.
In attempting to keep Proposal 2 off the ballot, foes of the measure had alleged that it was deceptively worded. Because the measure calls for public institutions to be prohibited from engaging in racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination, it reads like a document that might be put forward by the same feminist and minority-advocacy groups that actually were deeply opposed to it.
An exit poll of 3,000 voters conducted for The Detroit News found stark race- and gender-based divisions on how Michigan residents viewed the measure. A solid majority of men supported it, while a solid majority of women were opposed.
Broken down by race, the results of the exit poll showed that at least 56 percent of the white respondents voted in favor of Proposal 2, but at least 86 percent of black and 69 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots against it.
In terms of education level, the strongest opponents of the measure - with more than 6 out of 10 voting against it - were people at the extremes of the spectrum, who either had never earned a high-school diploma or had graduated from college and gone on to graduate or professional school.
The strongest advocates of the measure were people whose educations had not progressed beyond a high-school diploma or some technical training. Michigan is 81 percent white and 14 percent black, and ranks as one of the nation's most segregated states.
Political analysts had predicted that Proposal 2 would pass easily if the voting fell strictly along racial lines. Opponents of Proposal 2 had concluded that their best hope of defeating the measure was by producing a high turnout among black voters and trying to sway women against it.
The chief organization campaigning against the measure, One United Michigan, had warned in campaign advertisements that passage of the measure could threaten programs that help battered women and programs that provide screening for breast and cervical cancer - assertions that the measure's backers strongly denied.
In the final weeks of the election, One United Michigan also ran a radio advertisement in which Sen. Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, urged people to vote against the measure, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson visited the state to campaign against it.
The impact of the Michigan measure may be felt well beyond race- and ethnicity-conscious admissions policies. It is expected to also affect many recruitment, scholarship, or student-support programs geared toward helping minority students get into and through public colleges in Michigan.
At her news conference last week, Ms. Coleman offered assurances that, despite the measure's passage, no student would lose a scholarship, fellowship, or grant; no university employee involved with a program that promotes diversity or tends to minority affairs would lose his or her job; and that the university would continue to reach out to high schools to draw a diverse student body.
An analysis of the likely impact of Proposal 2, published by the University of Michigan before the elections, said the university's efforts in all of the areas mentioned by Ms. Coleman could be threatened by the measure's passage.
Jay Rosner has worked with both the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of California system as the executive director of the Princeton Review Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to helping more minority students qualify for admission to college. He said Michigan's public colleges may have more difficulty than those in California did in maintaining diversity in the absence of racial and ethnic preferences in admission. Along with being intensely segregated, he noted, Michigan does not have nearly as large a minority population as California to try to draw upon to keep its numbers of minority students up.
A 2003 Chronicle analysis found that Michigan may have trouble achieving much diversity at its selective public colleges through "percent plans," which provide automatic admission to students in the top of their high-school classes, because it has nearly 10 times as many overwhelmingly white high schools as overwhelmingly black high schools. Mr. Rosner predicted that the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor will experience "a significant drop in underrepresented minority students" in the next year or two.
Detroit and the Supremes
As of this month, One United Michigan, which opposed the measure, had raised more than $4.6-million from various sources. More than a third of its money came from large corporate donors, such as the Ford Motor Company, the Dow Chemical Company, and Detroit's Greektown Casino.
Among those lending support to the campaign on behalf of the measure was the Center for Individual Rights, an organization based in Washington, D.C., that has played a key role in legal challenges to race-conscious college-admissions policies in Michigan, Texas, and Washington State. It provided about $218,000 in in-kind donations to the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative Committee.
Going into last week's election, Mr. Connerly said that the opposition he encountered in Michigan had been so taxing on him that he personally had no plans to undertake similar campaigns in other states. After the results of the voting on Proposal 2 came in, however, Mr. Connerly said he was encouraged enough to consider mounting other campaigns "while the iron is hot." The main thing discouraging him from moving soon, he said, was that the opponents of such a campaign will be able to move more quickly now, having just been geared up around an election, than they will be "if we wait six months and let them stagnate."
Mr. Connerly said he had received calls from people in other states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Oregon, who were interested in undertaking similar campaigns.
The populist movement against racial preferences had largely been dormant since the late 1990s, when it became apparent that the Supreme Court was poised to take up the question of whether such preferences violated the U.S. Constitution's equal-protection clause.
The Supreme Court upheld the use of race-conscious admissions policies by colleges in two 2003 rulings involving the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, but it has recently chosen to revisit the affirmative-action controversy by considering two cases involving the race-based assignment of students to public schools.
The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the cases next month, and Mr. Connerly says he is confident his crusade against racial and ethnic preferences will gain additional momentum if the court strikes down the policies in question, which the Jefferson County, Ky., and Seattle school districts had adopted to promote racial integration.
Boos and Cheers in Academe
Among those who cheered the passage of Proposal 2 was Stephen H. Balch, president of the National Association of Scholars, an organization that takes a traditionalist view toward academe and assisted the campaign on behalf of the measure.
In an interview last week, Mr. Balch called the passage of Proposal 2 "an extinction event" for the explicit use of racial preferences by higher-education institutions. "I cannot believe that there is anyone out there now in the higher-education establishment who does not realize that, at this point, if the same proposal were put before voters in the vast majority of states in this country, the voters would reject preferences," Mr. Balch said.
Many other higher-education organizations, in Michigan and elsewhere, had come out against Proposal 2. They included several colleges' student governments, the Michigan affiliate of the American Association of University Professors, and a council made up of the state's public-university presidents. The Law School Admission Council donated $250,000 to One United Michigan, while the Association of American Universities gave $7,500. The Association of American Medical Colleges donated $10,000 to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, a Washington-based coalition of civil-rights organizations, to help finance its efforts to defeat Proposal 2.
Darrell G. Kirch, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, called the measure's passage "a severe setback for Michigan's citizens and medical schools."
"Banning affirmative action," Dr. Kirch said, "will strip medical educators of an important tool to increase diversity among tomorrow's doctors." Becky Timmons, director of government relations for the American Council on Education, called the measure's passage "a serious setback to the goal of equal educational opportunity."
"It will not level the playing field, as some who voted for it may believe," Ms. Timmons said. "Instead, it will effectively tie the hands of Michigan's public colleges in their attempts to encourage broader participation in higher education by women and minorities." -30-
Last Known Link to the Chronicle article
Affirmative action ban OK'd
Michigan 3rd state to nix preferential treatment
By SUZETTE HACKNEY Detroit Free Press
November 8, 2006
Michigan voters sent a clear message about affirmative action programs that offer preferences to women and minorities: It's time for them to end.
Election Day numbers Tuesday showed the controversial proposal winning by a wide margin. Michigan becomes the third state to outlaw giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, education or contracting purposes.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, 58%, or 2,129,506 people, voted yes on Proposal 2 and 42%, or 1,538,520 voters, opposed it.
Fran Smeak, 80, a registered Republican from Birmingham, said she read the pros and cons for the five ballot proposals, but Proposal 2 was the hardest to make a decision about. In the end, she voted for the ban.
"I can see how some people would feel like if they did not get extra help, they would not make it," she said Tuesday. "My overall view is that if everyone is on the same basis, then they should all get fairly treated."
The proposal was largely prompted by a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld a general affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Michigan's law school but struck down the undergraduate admission formula as too unyielding because it awarded points based on race.
U-M is the only university in the state that uses affirmative action to a great extent in admissions, but all public colleges and universities would have to reevaluate their outreach, scholarship and grant awards if they benefit gender or racial or ethnic groups. Programs that target specific groups in K-12 schools also would be affected.
Jennifer Gratz, the U-M applicant in 1995 who was wait-listed and later spurred the case heard by the Supreme Court, served as the executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, sponsor of the proposal.
"I am excited and hopeful that Michigan will finally be a place of equal opportunity for all," Gratz said Tuesday. "The people of Michigan are the ones who have won today. They stood up to big business, big labor, to the entire establishment and said, 'We want to be treated equally.' "
According to a poll of voters conducted by Mitchell Research and Communications Inc. of East Lansing, voters under age 40 were the only group to oppose the measure in significant numbers on Tuesday.
Men overwhelmingly supported the ban; women narrowly opposed it. Democrats opposed it while Republicans and independents favored it. Black voters strongly opposed the proposition, but it was passing among white voters.
Both Democrats and a majority of Republican leaders spoke out against Proposal 2. A coalition of 200 business, religious, labor, education and government officials and others also worked to defeat MCRI, which was backed by Ward Connerly, a former University of California regent.
Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said Proposal 2 was the single biggest issue in the election, one that would shape Michigan's economy for years. He said the campaign against it got off to a slow start because of lack of money. One United Michigan raised about $3.4 million to oppose the measure.
David Waymire, spokesman for One United Michigan, said Michigan politicians now have the costly task of trying to figure out how to bring equal opportunity to all. "It's up to the leaders to step up and try to overcome this," he said.
Michelle Crockett, an attorney with Miller Canfield in Detroit, said Proposal 2 will be challenged with lawsuits.
"This is not the end of it, even though it may win tonight. It's going to be in the court for a long time to come," Crockett said. -30-
Last Known Link to the Free Press story
Michigan Votes Down Affirmative Action
Inside Higher Ed 11/08/06
Michigan voters on Tuesday approved a ban on affirmative action at the state's public colleges and in government contracting. The vote came despite opposition to the ban from most academic and business leaders in the state - and the history in which the University of Michigan played a key role in preserving the right of colleges to consider race as a factor in admissions.
Defenders of affirmative action had been encouraged in the campaign's closing days by polls suggesting growing skepticism for the ban. But in the end, the ban won support from more than 58 percent of voters, according to unofficial results. Michigan thus followed a pattern in which some voters appear reluctant to tell pollsters of their opposition to affirmative action.
A CNN exit poll of Michigan voters suggested that the ban passed because of support from men. Sixty percent of men, but only 47 percent of women said that they backed the ban. By educational status, support for the ban was strongest among those who were college graduates, and opposition was strongest among those with postgraduate education. Among white voters, CNN found that 59 percent backed the ban, while only 14 percent of black voters did so.
The impact of the ban - known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative - is expected to be greatest at the University of Michigan, which has the most competitive admissions in the state. It is unclear how Michigan will respond to the change, which would take effect in the middle of an admissions cycle.
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the university issued the following statement Tuesday night - before final results were in: "We defended affirmative action all the way to the Supreme Court because diversity is essential to our mission as educators. We must keep the doors of opportunity open to all. Regardless of what happens with Proposal 2, the University of Michigan will remain fully and completely committed to diversity. I am determined to do whatever it takes to sustain our excellence by recruiting and retaining a diverse community of students, faculty and staff."
Coleman plans to meet with students today to discuss the vote.
Donn M. Fresard, editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, which opposed the ban, said he didn't expect major student unrest over the vote. "You are not going to see rioting on the Diag," he said. "The average students isn't overly upset about this, and you'd be surprised how many students support it. Especially among white students, support was pretty high."
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was the brainchild of Ward Connerly, who as a regent of the University of California led that system and then the state to bar affirmative action, with statewide action coming in 1996 vote. A similar vote two years later banned affirmative action in Washington State, but efforts by affirmative action foes then shifted largely to the courts, leading to the landmark 2003 Supreme Court decisions in two cases involving the University of Michigan.
Those decisions - one about the system used by Michigan to admit undergraduates and one about the system used by its law school - effectively said that colleges could continue to use affirmative action, but couldn't have separate systems in which extra points were awarded across the board specifically for race and ethnicity. Many critics of affirmative action had high hopes that the Michigan cases would be used by the Supreme Court to roll back its 1978 ruling in the Bakke case, which upheld the right of colleges to consider race in admissions. When Bakke largely survived, Connerly and others shifted back to the referendum approach, with a focus on Michigan.
The effort in Michigan was controversial throughout the process. Defenders of affirmative action said that those who gathered petitions on behalf of the measure deceived citizens, leading many to sign the petitions without realizing what they were supporting. When Michigan courts said that the petitions were valid, the stage was set for the campaign that ended on Tuesday.
In that campaign, critics of affirmative action consistently talked about admissions - in black and white terms - at the University of Michigan. Defenders of affirmative action stressed the potential impact of the measure on the education of female students in schools and colleges, many of which have created special programs for them, especially in math and science. The emphasis on such programs was seen in the last week as eroding support for a ban - particularly among female voters. -30-
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