Center for Individual Rights CEO Terry Pell told a crowd of local Libertarian Party members Saturday night that if a Cincinnati court rules in favor of the University in its affirmative action lawsuits this month, he will not let the decision stand.
“In the next two to two and a half years,” Pell said, “this should be before the Supreme Court, and we should have a decision.”
Pell, who filed suits against the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and the Law School, with regard to admissions policies, did admit that a two-year time frame was optimistic.
“We”re trying to change the laws that in too many cases makes it difficult for individuals to have the kind of fights that we need to be having,” Pell said. “CIR is a small organization: we”re about 10 people. Each year we bring a handful of legal cases that reinforce self-government.”
Pell continued by directly addressing the admissions cases with the statistics CIR brought before the courts.
The CIR statistician “calculated that the odds of an underrepresented minority student being accepted were nearly 234 times the odds of non-minority applicant being accepted,” Pell said. “Race isn”t just a factor they look at in these files: it”s the determining factor that makes all the difference.”
Pell also lauded Barbara Grutter and Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiffs in the Law School and undergraduate suits, respectively.
“Jennifer and Barbara remind us that this is about the efforts of two Michigan citizens to get rid of one single incredibly unfair admissions system,” Pell said. “But by their leadership, Jennifer and Barbara force the debate back to the real world of individuals whose lives are directly affected and profoundly changed by affirmative action.”
After delivering his speech, Pell responded to questions concerning the results of abolishing affirmative action and whether the question of using affirmative action in public institutions may ever be resolved.
“One of the good things that could come out of us winning our lawsuit is that there will be increased political pressure to do something about the really rotten education system in a lot of the areas of the country where minority students are concentrated,” Pell said.
The next step for the CIR will be the hearing of oral arguments for both University cases on Oct. 23 in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, where affirmative action supporters from Detroit and Cincinnati protested Friday.
Detroit activist Shanta Driver, 47, who said affirmative action policy allowed her to be an undergraduate student at Harvard University, said supporters want affirmative action continued at Michigan and other schools to give minorities the opportunity of higher education.
“We will not accept the re-segregation of American society,” said Driver, who is a member of the local chapter of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight For Equality By Any Means Necessary.
The group is also planning rallies the day the appeals process is set to begin.
Pell, for his part, feels confident his fight against affirmative action has picked up steam.
“When we started our lawsuit against the University of Michigan in 1997 more than half of Americans told pollsters that they supported colleges and universities taking race into account in admissions,” Pell said. “Now, almost no one does.”
“I”m glad someone is out there fighting the issue,” said Gregory Creswell, a medical records clerk at Harper Hospital in Detroit.
The dinner and speech were held as part of the sixth annual Sam Adams Dinner hosted by the Libertarian Party of Washtenaw County.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.