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U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Affirmative Action in College Admissions

University of Michigan decries ruling, asserts affirmative action is a necessary leveling tool to achieve diversity.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action in college admissions.

by Beth Dalbey

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions, delivering in its divided opinion a blow to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where dwindling minority enrollment has come under fire.

The ruling overturns a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision,The Detroit Free Press reports.

"The plurality opinion stresses that the case is not about the constitutionality or the merits of race conscious admission policies in higher education. Rather, the question concerns whether and in what manner voters in a state may chose to prohibit consideration of such racial preferences," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.

"Rather, the question concerns whether, and in what manner, voters in the states may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences. Where states have prohibited race-conscious admissions policies, universities have responded by experimenting with a wide variety of alternative approaches. ... The decision by Michigan voters reflects the ongoing national dialogue about such practices."

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and admissions director Ted Spencer told MLive/The Ann Arbor News that without affirmative action, the university can’t achieve a fully diverse student body.

Just 4.6 percent of undergraduates this year are black, compared with 8.9 pecent a decade ago and 7 percent in 2006.

Achieving diversity is “impossible to achieve diversity on a regular basis” without affirmative action, a leveling tool used in employment and other areas to achieve diversity, Spencer told the Ann Arbor newspaper.

At issue in the decision was Proposal 2, approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters in 2006. It amended the state Constitution and made it illegal for state entities to consider race in admissions and hiring.

The opposition group By Any Means Necessary mounted a campaign against the admissions portion of the ban mounted an opposition campaign shortly after voters approved it. They argued it violated the equal protection provision in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

A panel of three 6th Circuit judges found the ban unconstitutional, an opinion upheld in an 8-7 opinion by the full slate of judges in November 2012. That opinion conflicted with a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a similar voter-backed ban on affirmative action in California, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Michigan case to settle the conflicting opinions.

Tell Us: Do you agree with the Supreme Court ruling? Why or why not?
Porter gladstone May 18, 2014 at 06:22 PM
Love all-- can you name the people who hold the power (name 6 people - they are obviously known to you, or else why would you mention them?) and also the people who being held down--I'd like 6 names there as well. People who have been systematically held down by those 6 people you name---some of the ones with power. My belief is that racism does occur in this country. But it is also used an excuse. I think that affirmative action on the basis of race no longer should apply, but that consideration of socio-economic disadvantages that exist that reflect a playing field that isnt level is necessary. There is a book out by a Georgetown professor called "Place not race" it essentially mirrors my opinion. If particular school districts are underfunded or where peer groups such as gangs present obstacles to scholastic achievement, then they should be considered. But a Black son of a hedge fun manager should not be considered more entitled to admission than a white coal miners son --simply because one has darker skin pigmentation. Being black is not a disadvantage. Being poor is.
Love All May 18, 2014 at 08:23 PM
Good grief Porter,, time to play games eh? Let's see,,, 6 that hold the "power",,, Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and Breyer. These are the men that ruled on the State of Michigan issue of racial preferences in college admissions. From there we can count a majority of the 233 members of the US House and 45 members of the US Senate that walk in lock-step with each other on ANY issue related to race in America. While we're at it,, those 278 congressmen and women are the same ones that vote in lock step on issue related to denying equal rights to gay men and women. Did I do ok? Answer your silly question in a manner you can now disagree with? One thing I do agree with you on is that poverty plays a great role in our world as well. However,, explain to me why a legacy with a lesser GPA should have preference over a person of color with a BETTER GPA?
Porter gladstone May 18, 2014 at 08:56 PM
1- The reason why a legacy receives preference is simple business. The college/University wants to encourage giving from alumni/alumnae. The legacy under affirmative action would not get in before the person of color btw. But again, why do you believe that being a person of color should be preferenced? Simple questin Malia Obama from Sidwell Friends School applies to Harvard. Kate Jones , white, from Appalachian Central HIgh applies to Harvard. Kate has a 4.00 and 1590 SAT. Malia has 3.9 and 1570. But Malia is black and she should receive preference? Because of her hardship? Really? _______________ As far as the people in power holding people down, that is a great answer to demonstrate that you have no real incite into the issue. thanks. For your information, the 14th amendment --the "equal rights clause" affirms the right to gay marriage, and rights to people of color, and of national origin. No one's rights are to be placed below another's on the basis of race (gender etc). Congress passed that law, and the Supreme Court cannot legislated from the bench. They are bound to rule the way they did: there is nothing in the Constitution that allows them to discriminate against any people for any reason. If they decide that blacks should receive better treatment, it is a slippery slope. When you allow for racial preference to enter the discussion, then it would open up the ability for white's to prefer whites. Obviously -to you based on your numbers above naming Republican House members and Republican Senators this is just a political consideration. YOu may want to englighten yourself on facts, however. Segregation laws were supported most notably in the past by Democrats. No one , to my knowledge in Congress advocates for segregation any longer. So that's just nonsense on your part. One last thing--there are currently 10 Democrat Senators who believe that Marriage is between a man and a woman. I know the DNC doesnt want you to know that-- and certainly the Republicans are vulnerable on this issue, but when you slice issues into right and left, it's pretty uninformed.
Love All May 18, 2014 at 10:14 PM
Porter,, you like to come off as the more intelligent individual in a conversation. That being said,, it's "insight". Apparently when somebody responds to your question you deflect and provide an endless stream of opine supported by your own opine. I'm not playing that game with you. You asked for 6, I gave you 6. Your blather about the 14th Amendment is BALONEY based on the AG of Michigan claiming the will of the voters should be upheld,, so which way do you want it? Of course there are folks on both sides of the aisle that don't vote the party line. I'm not a DNC minion. I vote my beliefs. I'm simply laying of the case that the MAJORITY of the republicans in congress and the general public OPPOSE gay MARRIAGE as well as AAction. Try again?
Porter gladstone May 18, 2014 at 11:14 PM
Love all. Thanks . I misspelled. That makes me dumb? Opine is a verb. You dont provide opine, or support it with opine. Opining is what you are doing when offering an opinion. _--------- I asked for 6 but they are not ones who are in power oppressing anyone. They are following the law. That is their job. You really need to understand what Courts do , and what legislators do. _______________ If you believe that people don't vote according to party line, then don't say its 45 Senators, and 233 House members that " walk in lock-step." You see "walk in lock step" is not the same as saying "of course there are folks on both sides of the aisle that don't vote party line." ___________ I dont think im smarter, but I don't think its smart to say that those in power are there to oppress minorities --when the most powerful man in the free world is Barack Obama.

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