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Posted on Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 2:21 p.m.

Statewide ban on factoring race in university admissions before federal court again

By Kellie Woodhouse

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.


Bill Schuette

AP Photo

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.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 6:43 p.m.

Sorry, but no matter your race, color, etc., if you aren't "up to snuff" as far as entering certain learning facilities then you just aren't. Case closed. I heard a quote from Morgan Freeman that comes to mind: "I don't acknowledge Black History month because I am an American. I am neither black or white, I am an American." I've watched race fueled topics do a complete turn over my 51 years in this life. If you don't have the qualifications you just cannot be considered....for whatever it is. I wonder with the drop in black students at UVM as the above article describes, just exactly the reason for the drop. In my own opinion I feel students were allowed to enroll based more on their color than on their academic qualifications. How many QUALIFIED students (as well as future clients, patients, etc.) suffered due to Affirmative Action???? I think Affirmative Action did what it needed to do when it was first implemented. Now it is painfully obvious that it is a hindrance & in all actuality keeps better qualified students from furthering their education. ***My last thought.....aren't these young people OUR FUTURE??? Who do you want steering that ship when the deep waters come? I, myself want the more qualified individual.***


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:45 a.m.

The census says blacks are 14.2% of Michigan population. If the number of black students took a rather sudden but persistent drop from ~2700 to ~1780 (4.8%), how can Schuette or anyone else claim that they have equal opportunity? That would make sense only if theinterest from black students in attending UM was low and dropped suddenly, right at the same time the admission rules changed. Unlikely. So, one reason we need to change the rules is so that blacks have a fair opportunity.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 2:36 a.m.

Affirmative action is discrimination because of a persons race or gender unless you are the favored group. I'm tired of people fighting to discriminate against certain groups in this country under the guise of some warped social justice. What kind of country would tolerate this kind of blatant discrimination? I see people protesting against dicrimination in other countries and on the other hand supporting it in this country. What's up with that?

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

What kind of country? America just 50 years ago! Proud?


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 1:46 a.m.

That we need a racial diversity in order to have a quality education is a myth, and a damned myth. Let me ask the bleeding hearts: How much racial diversity is there in Chinese Universities? How about Indian Universities? Hmmmmm? Sorry, but only the best of the best go to the top universities, race be damned. And, in case you haven't noticed, those countries are sucking the doors off ours. Racial diversity = quality education? Absolutely, positively, without exception NO!

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

And slave wages help to fund your friends in China and India! Prophetic for America!


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 12:33 a.m.

Can we move beyond Affirmative Action based on race? It's old news and no longer relevant. If the UM wants to help kids from low income families who are talented and have the test scores and grades to succeed at UM, then let's help those kids get admitted regardless of race.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 12:28 a.m.

Agree with A2 James. "Three years later, in 2006, voters passed Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution to prohibit public universities from considering race in admissions." This should be the end of the story.

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:36 a.m.

Can 3/5 personhood be next?


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

Amen to that. In case you haven't noticed the "progressives " will not take no for an answer as long as there are courts to overturn law, recall elections, occupy movements, the news medio to beat down those who oppose, and other methods of intimidation.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 12:19 a.m.

The article does not indicate but I believe that the reconsideration of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is "en banc", meaning that the full Sixth Circuit shall hear oral arguments and decide the matter, not just the 3-judge panel redering the initial decision. Expect this Court to rule down party lines in issuing a ruling consistent with conservative or liberal ideology. The Bakke decision in 1978 banned racial quotas, but allowed it to be considered as a factor in admissions practices; since that time courts have wrestled over the issue of affirmative action and whether specific programs were violative of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. As a side matter, the Potter Stewart United States Courthouse in Cincinnati is a wonderful old building and I would recommend a tour of it to anyone visiting that city.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Affirmative Action is Racist! Why not just base admissions on performance! After all, If a 1/2 African-Amercian man can become President of the U.S., I think all of the barriers are down.


Wed, Mar 7, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

I like your post Happy...thank you for taking the time to recognize. But as Native, we (most) as a people do not want "sympathy" or anything else that keeps our young people in the vicious cycle of the last 200 years. Too many people become accustom to preferential favor and won't try on their own. The only way to break the cycle is to improve performance/motivation...literally.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 4:17 a.m.

I mean no disrespect, but you are obviously white (full disclosure, I am too). When a certain group of people have a long standing history of being treated unequally, the reason why more of them are currently in poverty or struggle is because their ancestors were never given the chance to excel. The reason why Detroit is full of mostly poor African Americans is not because they choose that life, it is because that life was chosen for them and it is a hard cycle to break. I understand that from a white privilege perspective we tend to think, "well I did not create or participate in those Jim Crow laws or the slave ships or restricted home owners associations so why should blacks today get a boost up?" But we have to remember our history, we did not start on the same footing and it is only very recently that our laws have become more just. Yet, there are still examples of exclusive clubs and bigots...those ideas were not born into people, they were raised (from a long history) to think that way. 40 years of more just laws cannot change 200 years of injustice overnight. Generations of african american children (and native american) will be effected by our shared and embarrassing history.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 10 p.m.

The voters passed Proposal 2, so that is what the people of Michigan want. Affirmative action is obsolete. Instead of supporting that, there should be "socioeconomic action", which is much more logical and fair, and would also help to dispel the myth that minorities are the only people who are poor...


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

@Kellie Woodhouse "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 to change students could report their race, allowing them to pick more than one or abstain from disclosing race)." If students didn't report their race or could pick more than one, how exactly can you compare the enrollment statistics? Doesn't this mean the University doesn't really know what race their students are? I have always enjoyed the irony of pretending to pursue racial long as we keep track.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

Prop 2 is obviously classist, probably racist, and it should have been struck down. Now the right wing rich Attorney General/Governor decides to spend money the state does not have to make sure that the "haves" in the state get more slots at UM. If all of the local school systems in the state were equal in the caliber of students they turn out, we could have an admission system that only looks at test scores and grades of the students. But school systems aren't equal, so we have to make exceptions for students from the poorer performing districts.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

@leaguebus So other people who are more qualified to go to UM shouldnt be allowed to go bec they dont have as good of a tan???

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:34 a.m.

leaguebus, keeping them down is the goal! And they are achieving!


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 9:15 p.m.

So we should then get off our dead rear-ends and fix the problem of "unequal school systems"


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 9:12 p.m.

In your world, the people on the bottom stay on the bottom and do not go to UM.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8:18 p.m.

So we should fight classism and racism with classism and racism? How does that bring people together, instead of driving them apart?


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8 p.m.

So since Justice Kagan is abstaining...what prevents a deadlock? Does another Justice fall out as well? Hopefully they don't tie and waste MORE time and money in an already back-logged environment.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 9:11 p.m.

Thanks Eep


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

If it's a tie, the lower court decision stands and the University can keep using race as a factor in admissions.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

Affirmative Action hurts everything. The only thing it does is let people who shouldn't be somewhere get to that place, so they can water it down for everyone.


Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:23 p.m.

@lolly. how is rich diversity necessary for a good education? Does it change how a teacher teaches?? Or what a student learns? It doesnt matter how tan I am, or how tan the other students in my classes are...

Stephen Landes

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:39 a.m.

No, David. Affirmative action is racist -- it perpetuates advancement and selection by race.

David Briegel

Tue, Mar 6, 2012 : 3:32 a.m.

No Stephen, Prop 2 is racist. And Stephen, I don't think you really want to go where the coaches go!

Stephen Landes

Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 10:33 p.m.

Those who say that Prop 2 has "caused" the number of Black students to decline at U of M are really saying that U of M is racist because they must be doing something to prevent Black students from successfully applying. Maybe the problem is with the students themselves: could be they aren't applying because they believe they can't make it without "affirmative action"; they don't have the credentials to successfully apply. What colleges and universities need to do is take their cues from athletic departments: get out into the schools and cultivate the teachers in public and private schools; let all students know that you are interested in them; figure out who the promising students are and stay with them throughout their middle and high school years; do this regardless of race and based only on potential; make sure these children know about scholarship, grant, and other funding opportunities. In short, do what Hoke and Bielein do every single year tirelessly and stop complaining about not getting the recruits you need!


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

What gets watered down without affirmative action is the rich diversity in the student body that is necessary for a good education.


Mon, Mar 5, 2012 : 8:36 p.m.

Well, Prop 2 certainly cut down on the number of African Americans at U of M. Now that we know that this impacts this group more than others, is Prop 2 bad? Will watering down the graduation class at UM affect how much money the grads make when they get their first job? Do you think the average Professor at UM will lower their standards because there are some people in the class that come from disadvantaged backgrounds? Is a student that has a 120 IQ different from a lesser school district than a student with a 120 IQ from AA or Birmingham?