The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative scored a major victory yesterday when the Michigan Court of Appeals decided to allow the organization’s proposal – which would ban affirmative action in public hiring and college admissions in the state – to appear on the ballot in November 2006.

BAMN – a pro-affirmative action group – plans to appeal the Appeal Court’s decision to the Michigan Supreme Court, BAMN organizer and Rackham student Ben Royal said. He added that the organization is also asking Gov. Jennifer Granholm to intervene and spearhead an investigation of the signatures collected by MCRI.

Supporters of affirmative action filed an appeal claiming signatures collected by MCRI to qualify the proposal for the ballot were obtained by misleading black voters into thinking they were supporting affirmative action. The groups that filed the appeal requested that the Board of State Canvassers investigate the validity of the signatures.

But the Appeals Court ruled yesterday that the canvassers have no authority to question the petitions collected by MCRI.

If the proposal is passed, the University would not be allowed to continue to factor race into its admissions decisions, a policy upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.

Royal said even people who don’t support affirmative action should be discouraged by yesterday’s decision.

“It makes sense to have a body that investigates voter fraud because it ensures democracy,” he said. “Not allowing investigations is just absurd.”

But RC Prof. Carl Cohen, who teaches a course in which he openly opposes affirmative action, said MCRI collected 455,000 valid signatures, far beyond the 317,000 necessary for the proposal to be included on the ballot next fall.

“It’s plain that this is an initiative which should be before the people of Michigan for their decision, and that’s the way democracy works,” he said.

A poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press and EPIC/MRA, found that 60 percent of Michigan residents oppose affirmative action, indicating that the proposal is likely to pass.

Cohen said most Michiganders think of affirmative action as a moral disgrace. He said the end of the use of race as a factor in admissions policies at the University will be beneficial.

“It’s a good thing because in a good society, people do not discriminate on the basis of the color of people’s skin,” he said.

University President Mary Sue Coleman has repeatedly affirmed her opposition to MCRI.

Other opponents of MCRI argue that besides posing a threat to programs targeting minorities, the proposal will lead to the end of University programs that further the hiring of women. ADVANCE, a program that helps recruit and hire women in sciences and engineering fields, could be eliminated if the proposal is approved.

LSA junior Alex Moffett, vice president of the University’s NAACP chapter, said MCRI’s proposal will also present obstacles to organizations like the Society of Women Engineers.

Moffett said affirmative action helps provide opportunities to students from high schools in low-income areas, where many students belong to a racial minority group.

“Until the disparities that usually follow along racial lines are corrected, then things like affirmative action will still need to exist,” she said.

NAACP now plans to focus its efforts on fundraising and education in the hope of stifling the proposal’s support, Moffett said.

 

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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