With more than 50 protesters and tight security detail outside
the Michigan Union Pond Room, Jennifer Gratz voiced her support for
a statewide ban on affirmative action policies last night.

Laura Wong
Jennifer Gratz, the former plantiff who sued the University over the LSA admissions policy which granted 20 points to Hispanic, black and Native American applicants speaks in the Michigan Union last night. (JEFF LEHNERT/Daily)

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative looks to include an
initiative that would ban race-conscious government policies, such
as public university admissions, on this November’s
ballot.

Gratz, one of the plaintiffs in the University’s
admissions lawsuits last year and the executive director of the
MCRI, hosted her first public presentation at the University since
the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was handed down.

Gratz sued the University in December 1997, challenging the
undergraduate point system that automatically granted 20 points to
Hispanics, blacks and Native Americans. The court upheld the Law
School’s policy of using race as a factor in admissions.

The University retracted its admissions policies last fall,
eliminating the point system and implementing a more intensive
application process.

Although the College Republicans who brought Gratz to campus are
bound to party lines and do not officially endorse the MCRI, Gratz
spoke extensively on how members of the University could support
the initiative.

“You could decide to endorse the MCRI as a campus group,
you could decide to endorse the MCRI as an individual (or) you
could decide to collect signatures,” Gratz said. “The
hard part is getting this on the ballot. Once we get this on the
ballot, I think we have a great chance of getting it
passed.”

Outside, protesters chanted and harassed members of the College
Republicans, before and during Gratz’s presentation.
Undeterred, Gratz acknowledged the role and determination of the
demonstrators.

“I don’t agree with them, but I respect the fact
that they’ve gotten involved,” Gratz said.

Although they were not allowed to hear Gratz speak, protestors
claimed Gratz’s support for the initiative revealed her
racist position.

“She needs to stop fighting for segregation and
racism” said LSA senior Kate Stenvig, a member of BAMN.
“We need to make it clear to Gratz that she needs to quit
this campaign.”

This campaign includes the organization of regional and local
coordinators for the initiative’s signature collection
efforts. Gratz has held her position in the MCRI since the day
after the Court’s decision.

“I recommitted myself to the principle of equality,”
Gratz said. “Diversity and other equally good intentions
should not trump the principle of equal justice under
law.”

The College Republicans intended Gratz to recount her experience
at the Supreme Court.

“We wanted her to bring the other side (of the story) the
University isn’t telling the students,” said LSA senior
Steve MacGuidwin, president of the University College Republicans.
“They know the cases, but they don’t know the woman
behind the cases.”

BAMN members rallying against the initiative included high
school students from Cass Tech and King High School in Detroit.

“This initiative is very deceptive. It has no intention of
protecting what we accomplished in the 60s,” said Britney
Smith, a student from Cass Tech.

Earlier in the day, members of BAMN discouraged students from
putting their signatures on the petition for the ballot initiative,
a signing held by Young Americans for Freedom.

“I believe people have the right to sign a petition
without having someone scream ‘racist’ in their
face,” said LSA sophomore Bob Raham, vice chair for YAF.
“People have the right to sign whatever they want without
fear of intimidation.”

 

Daily Staff reporter Victoria Edwards contributed to this
report.

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