12 July 2011


A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a state constitutional amendment that barred Michigan colleges from considering race or gender in admissions decisions.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the law violated the U.S. constitution, a victory for civil-rights advocates who challenged the ban. The ruling comes as California wrestles with a similar challenge to its ban on race-influenced admissions, a restriction that exists in three other states.
Michigan voters in 2006 approved an initiative known as Proposal 2 that banned consideration of race in college admissions for public universities. A group of minority students, backed by affirmative-rights advocacy groups, sued on grounds that it violated federal law.
A couple of judge found that Proposal 2 unconstitutionally alters Michigan's political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, elected last year said he would appeal the decision to the full Sixth Circuit rather than to the U.S. Supreme Court. The law will remain in force during the appeal, he added. He stated that entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit, and he will continue the fight for equality, fairness and rule of law.
The amendment, which passed with 58% of the vote, also pertained to government hiring.
Plaintiffs argued the ban unfairly discriminated against taking race into account while other considerations—children of alumni and the disabled among others—were allowed. Supporters of the ban insisted the measure allowed for an even playing field without special preferences for race. Several of its backers couldn't be immediately reached Friday.
In 2008, a federal district-court judge in Detroit upheld the law, finding it was race-neutral.
The law has forced the University of Michigan and other schools to alter admissions policies that give minorities preferential treatment. The university is reviewing the possible implications of the court's decision and recognizes that there may be further legal steps as well.
The battle over racial preferences in college admissions began in the 1960s and '70s, as racial diversity began to be used as an admissions criterion. In the 1990s, several U.S. Supreme Court decisions said public universities couldn't establish race-based quotes or treat applications uniquely based on race.
In the intervening years, California, Colorado, Nebraska and Washington state enacted bans similar to Michigan's. Arizona voters rejected one in November 2010.
One 24-year-old Mexican-American plaintiff from Detroit, graduated from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2010. She was a beneficiary of race-influenced admission before the ban took place, but said she saw the minority population on the Ann Arbor campus drop during her time there.
Now, she worries about the fate of her sister, a high-school junior who wants to attend the University of Michigan.

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