Statewide ban on factoring race in university admissions before federal court again
Correction: The story has been corrected to reflect that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case regarding affirmative action policies at the University of Texas, thus giving justices the chance to reconsider the Supreme Court's 2003 stance on affirmative action.
Affirmative action has long been controversial in the state of Michigan.
In the past decade, Michigan's flagship university defended race-centric admissions policies before the U.S. Supreme Court, voters amended the state constitution to make affirmative action illegal and a federal court struck down that ballot initiative —passed by 58 percent of voters in 2006— for not aligning with the U.S. Constitution.
Simultaneously the number of African Americans at that flagship school —the University of Michigan— has decreased by about 1,000 students since 2004, when affirmative action ban Proposal 2 was first introduced.
Now, the federal appellate court in Ohio is preparing to hear arguments Wednesday regarding whether a panel of federal judges acted correctly when striking down Proposal 2 in June.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette appealed the 2-1 decision, saying Proposal 2 "embodies the fundamental premise'' of equal opportunity.
Michigan made national news in 2003 when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that colleges could factor race into admissions policies but that U-M had weighed race too heavily in its policy.
Three years later, in 2006, voters passed Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution to prohibit public universities from considering race in admissions.
Recently Michigan resurfaced in the national spotlight after the Supreme Court announced it would reconsider allowing race consideration in admissions by hearing an affirmative action case out of Texas. The court's nine justices agreed in February to discuss race-centric admissions policies at the University of Texas, although Justice Elena Kagan will abstain from hearing the case because she was U.S. Solicitor General when it was brought before the court originally.
Also 2011, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued a guidance supporting the consideration of race and socioeconomic status in admissions policies. That guidance revised a Bush-era federal policy that frowned upon affirmative action.
Since Proposal 2 was passed by 58 percent of voters in fall 2006, the number of black students attending U-M has declined significantly.
Throughout 2000 to 2004, black students numbered roughly 2,700 each year and comprised about 8 percent of the student body. In 2011 and 2010 there were 1,775 and 1,777 black students enrolled at U-M, respectively, equaling 4.8 percent of the student body. (Also in 2011 new federal rules required U-M and other schools to change how students could report their race, allowing them to pick more than one. Students can also abstain from disclosing race, an option that was also available under previous guidelines).
According to the ACLU, Mark Rosenbaum, a U-M law professor, will argue against Proposal 2 during the Wednesday hearing which takes place at 1:30 p.m. at the 540 Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse in Cincinnati.