After being ultimately denied its request for a delay of the enactment of Proposal 2 and publicly questioning the legal and social viability of the ballot measure now on the state constitution, it appears the University will have to just to play ball. It held out two months, but an e-mail to the campus community last week from University President Mary Sue Coleman and Provost Theresa Sullivan announced that admissions have resumed after a one-week postponement and will abide by the stipulations of the law for the rest of this cycle.

Although admissions officers are no longer permitted to consider race when making their decisions, the University has not removed questions concerning race from applications, simply asking instead that admissions officers disregard the answers.

Is that slightly dubious? Yes, but the University is hardly to blame. While universities in other states have been granted stays until the next admissions cycle, the courts decided to deny Michigan’s public universities the benefit of similar sensibility. While we may disagree about the viability of Proposal 2, even its strongest backers – like Republican Attorney General Mike Cox – agree that implementing it immediately is illogical and unfair because it changes rules in the middle of the game.

The University was compelled to comply with a questionable law in the inopportune present. The law will hurt the University by diminishing the quality of education it is able to provide and, if the University gives up now, also tarnish its reputation as a harbinger of academic diversity.

Monday’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Symposium reminded onlookers that the University is still a leader at recognizing and tackling prevalent social issues that others are all-too happy to overlook. By continuing to contest the Gratz and Grutter cases challenging the University’s use of race in its admissions process all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, the University demonstrated that it believes a diverse campus community is a vital part of a good college education.

The University has to comply with the most recent court ruling, but Coleman has insisted the legal avenues of contesting Proposal 2 will continue to be explored. She also has declared that in the absence of race, the admissions office will look at personal experience, special talents, geographic diversity, civic engagement and socioeconomic status in attempting to create an adequately rich, diverse campus community. Also, in February, the Diversity Blueprints task force will issue its findings, detailing possible additional ways to build a diverse student body. It is reassuring that the University administration is so focused on this issue, but we must also continue to challenge legally Proposal 2, not simply work around it to unpredictable results.

The law has the potential to disintegrate much of what has been built up over the last several decades, both in the dynamics of American society and the complex community the University has created. The University successfully defended its practices in front of the high court in the affirmative action cases mentioned above, and it should be prepared to go that far again.

In order to further the fight, the University should remain vigilant on the legal front, use the help of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who will step in to clarify stipulations of the law come February, and keep up the public relations campaign to inform people of why continued challenges to Proposal 2 are necessary. The University has worked too hard to be undone by a handful of clueless federal judges.

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