The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided today to reconsider its July ruling to lift the state’s ban on affirmative action — potentially reinstating the prohibition of considering race and gender in public university admissions.
Proposal 2 originally passed in 2006 with a 58 to 42 percent vote, which demonstrated Michigan residents’ desire to prevent preferential treatment based on race and gender and thus ban affirmative action. On July 1, a three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling in a 2-1 vote, calling the proposal the cause of dwindling diversity on campuses.
Since 2005, the number of underrepresented minority students at the University has decreased each year despite more admission offers to minority students and an increase in underrepresented students applying to the University. Last year, however, there was an increase in the percentage of underrepresented minority students in the freshman class — with 10.6 percent compared to 9.1 percent in 2009. This could be partly attributed to different ethnicity reporting instructions set by the Higher Education Opportunity Act.
University Law lecturer Mark Rosenbaum, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who argued against the ban on affirmative action in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals case, said he doesn’t support Proposal 2 because it limits the power of minorities.
“It’s not just unconstitutional, it’s un-America because it leaves out citizens of color,” Rosenbaum said. “It makes it impossible to talk about race as one part of the American mosaic.”
He added that Proposal 2 subdues diversity at universities and affects the discussions of race and ethnicity that occur on campuses.
“Proposal 2 locks out Michigan citizens of color from talking about race as a diverse student community,” Rosenbaum said.
While Rosenbaum said he supports the consideration of race in college admissions, he welcomes the chance to address the court.
“I think the three-judge panel decided it correctly, but I welcome the opportunity to present the entire case to the entire court,” he said.
George Washington, an attorney with the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration, and Immigration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, said BAMN’s brief for the case is due on Oct. 11 and Attorney General Bill Schuette’s brief on behalf of the state is due on Dec. 12. Washington, a plaintiff in the case, said he expects the case to be heard in the spring.
While Washington said he would have preferred the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to not re-hear the case, he believes his cause will prevail.
“I think we’re going to win,” he said. “I think they decided to take it because it’s an important case for the entire county. Now I think there will be a mass mobilization.”
Washington emphasized that even if affirmative action isn’t outlawed when the case is heard, minority students who would have been admitted in the spring will be the ones who “pay the price.”
Kate Stenvig, a Rackham graduate and leading member of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action by Any Means Necessary, said today’s decision to hear the case again will spur much activity by supporters of affirmative action.
“We’re just going to keep fighting until we win,” she said. “We’re determined to build a movement strong enough to win and increase minority enrollment now.”
Stenvig added that BAMN will organize marches at the University and around the state as it has in the past. She pointed to the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court case in which they ruled in favor of the University’s use of affirmative action in admissions.
“In 2003, everyone was telling us we couldn’t win in the Supreme Court. We organized 50,000 people to march on Washington — 20 busloads of students from the University, and more from all over the country,” she said. “We won because of that movement and that mobilization.”