In a forum sponsored by the Kalamazoo College Republicans last
Thursday, University of California Regent Ward Connerly told a
crowd of about 400 people that a vote to ban racial preferences
will get on the ballot by 2006, if not by fall of this year.

“This is not 1964. We’re not talking about black
people being denied access to institutions. Black people have
access. They may have to go out and earn it, just like whites, and
Asians, and Latinos and Native Americans have to earn it, but the
opportunity is there,” said Connerly, according to the
Kalamazoo Public Radio website.

Connerly spoke to support placing the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative on the November ballot. If passed, the proposal would
eliminate “race, sex, color, ethnicity or national
origin” in public education and employment.

MCRI supporters must gather 317,757 petition signatures by July
6 to get the proposal on the ballot this November.

Because it would not allow public universities to collect
information on gender or race, the initiative would effectively
reverse the Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger that
allowed the University to use race as a factor in its law
school’s admissions process.

The petition has undergone legal scrutiny because MCRI opponents
say the form’s vague language does not articulate exactly how
the proposal will change the constitution.

The Michigan Court of Appeals will be hearing arguments and
making a ruling on the petition form’s validity later this
month.

Chetly Zarko, a member of MCRI’s steering committee,
expressed complete agreement with Connerly’s speech.

While Zarko stated that the direction and plans of the drive
would be based on the outcome of the appeal, he said MCRI is still
aiming to make it on the ballot this year and would definitely
succeed in 2006.

Regardless of the outcome of the case pending at the Court of
Appeals, signatures for the petitions will still be collected this
summer, Zarko said. MCRI has hired more than a dozen paid gatherers
that are ready to be put out in the streets.

But MCRI opponents such as BAMN National Co-chair Luke Massie
had a positive reaction to the speech as well.

Massie said he regarded Connerly’s speech as a concession
of defeat on MCRI’s part due to inadequate support for the
ban in Michigan.

“It was a happy day for women and minorities and those who
stand for equality and integration. BAMN is victorious …
BAMN won. Ward Connerly lost,” said Massie.

He added that Thursday was not only a victory for BAMN, it was a
confirmation that the group’s multi-faceted strategy to
promote affirmative action and end discrimination has been
successful.

Massie said this strategy includes organizing pickets and
demonstrations to reach those with political influence. He added
that he did not think MCRI would continue pursuing their initiative
due to the limited time to gather signatures after the appeal.

Massie also expressed hope that this victory would be a message
for other states, and that they would take BAMN’s lead to
start fighting early with similar strategies.

Kalamazoo College Republicans President Dan Carlson also said he
enjoyed the speech, and that Connerly explained the importance of
MCRI well. Carlson agreed that the vote for the ban will appear on
the ballot by 2006, if it does not make it for this fall’s
election.

His chapter is the first College Republicans group to support
MCRI.

Carlson said they have worked extensively with MCRI to get
support by speaking to other colleges and gathering signatures for
the petition.

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