A few hopeful souls may be waiting for a deus ex machina to uncover the missing half-million ballots opposing Proposal 2, but with 94 percent of precincts reporting at press time, it’s clear that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative has passed. Despite years of effort, first to keep the proposal off the ballot and later to educate voters about what the proposal actually means, Michigan residents have spoken – and come out overwhelmingly against affirmative action.
There’s always more that opponents could have done, but with the proposal passing in all but a handful of counties, it’s unlikely a few more flyers and radio ads would have made much difference. But the battle isn’t over. Some changes are certain: The University will revamp its admissions process, tweak some programs and probably eliminate others. But Proposal 2 hasn’t put an end to the affirmative action debate – it’s begun a chain of court battles to sort out what “preferential treatment” actually means. If the deluge of lawsuits filed in California after a similar initiative passed in 1996 is any indication, the debate in the courts could go on for years.
Both supporters and opponents of Proposal 2 can agree that the status quo was unacceptable. For being born to the wrong family, thousands of children received an inferior education from the first day of kindergarten. For being born the wrong gender, women across the state face the legacy of male privilege that persists today in employment and contracting. The passage of Proposal 2 has done nothing to remedy these inequalities that demand our immediate attention.
More than any other public institution, the University now has a lot of decisions to make. But the University also stands in a unique position. It remains committed to maintaining diversity on campus despite yet another obstacle. And it has the influence to allay the negative effects Proposal 2 will surely bring. So far, the administration has been unwilling or unable to disclose much about its strategy to respond to Proposal 2. As last night’s results made clear, that will have to change. It likely will, beginning with University President Mary Sue Coleman’s speech at noon today on the Diag.
The morning after is hard, but the real challenge lies in the coming months and years. The University has fought battles in the U.S. Supreme Court to defend its commitment to diversity; we hope it doesn’t abandon that commitment now. Some may be willing to accept Proposal 2’s passage as the end of affirmative action, but we have a feeling the University won’t give up that easily. If there is one university that can find a way to achieve diversity after a setback as dire as this one, it’s the University of Michigan.