Backers, opponents of Michigan ban react to SCt ruling
By ED WHITE, Associated Press
DETROIT, April 22, 2014 (AP): The U.S. Supreme Court
decision Tuesday upholding the state's ban on using race as a
factor in college admissions comes as the University of
Michigan has been taking steps to reach out to minorities
and make them feel welcome on campus.
Blacks made up just 4.6 percent of undergraduate students last
fall, a figure that has dropped since voters in 2006 said race
couldn't be used as a factor in the selection process. Nearly
eight years later, the Supreme Court said the Michigan
constitutional amendment will stand.
``To take away the rights of minorities is a shocking
decision,'' said George Washington, a Detroit lawyer who
challenged the law. ``With this, and the voting rights decision
last year, it's clear the Supreme Court is undoing the rights
gained by blacks and Latino people in the 1960s and 1970s.''
The university declined to make officials available for an
interview. It released a statement from President Mary Sue
Coleman, who said the school would use ``every legal tool at our
disposal to bring together a diverse student body.''
Asians make up 13 percent of undergraduates, well above the
state's Asian population, and Latinos represent 4.4 percent.
Leaders of the Black Student Union have proposed ways to
increase black enrollment and enhance the campus for minorities.
They include lower housing costs for low-income students, better
promotion of emergency financial assistance and improvements at
a multicultural center.
The group wants black enrollment to be 10 percent, which is
closer to the state's 14 percent black population. The
university last week said it's had good conversations with the
group and is upgrading the multicultural center while a site for
an additional center is being explored.
The university also is making money available for transportation
between the campus and surrounding communities when buses aren't
of Fort Myers, Fla., was involved in the campaign for the
constitutional amendment and said the Supreme Court decision is
a ``great victory'' for Michigan voters. She sued over the
university's racial preferences in 1997 after being rejected for
Gratz, who is white, recently challenged a black Detroit high
school senior to a debate about affirmative action after Brooke
Kimbrough appeared at a rally to complain about not getting
accepted to the University of Michigan with a 3.6 grade-point
average and a 23 on the ACT.
Attorney General Bill Schuette, who defended the
amendment at the nation's top court, praised the 6-2 decision.
``We need to have diversity in our campuses ... across the state
of Michigan and across America,'' he said. ``And we need to
achieve this diverse student population by constitutional means.
That's the message of this opinion.''
While the focus has been on the University of Michigan, the ban
on affirmative action in college admissions applies to all
public schools. Michigan State University, the largest
school in the state, said blacks were 6 percent of
undergraduates last fall.
Washington said the University of Michigan could boost minority
enrollment by dropping ACT and SAT scores from the admissions
process. He said blacks and Latinos historically post lower
scores than white students and are rejected.
Washington also called for sit-ins.
``The Supreme Court has taken the gloves off, so we'll be taking
the gloves off,'' he said.
Coleman has publicly acknowledged that minority students have
``We hear loud and clear that students of color feel isolated
and marginalized, and that our frequently declared commitment to
diversity is perceived as disingenuous,'' she said in February.
``Students here and elsewhere are raising real—and
painful—concerns about campus climate and the diminishing number
of students of color in classrooms.''
AP reporters David Eggert and Emma Fidel in Lansing, Mich.,
contributed to this report.
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