WASHINGTON – Rushing into the cafeteria of the Supreme Court, communications Prof. Anthony Collings called out “we’ve won, we’ve won” to University President Mary Sue Coleman, standing alone at a long table yesterday morning.
Except for a gold ‘M’ pin on her green sweater, Coleman’s presence was inconspicuous.With no cellular phone service, and thus no way to get in contact with University officials in Ann Arbor, Coleman was left with no choice but to wait among the masses for the court’s decision.
All trace of uneasiness vanished from her face as she listened to Collings abbreviate the decisions. Just moments before, Coleman looked anxious as she waited for word on the court’s decisions regarding the two lawsuits that challenged the University’s use of race in its admissions policies.
“It’s just wonderful,” Coleman said, her hand on her chest. “We’ve held the Law School. It’s really important – not just for Michigan but for everybody.” Emerging from the court shortly after, the bombastic pride Coleman exuded was like students and alumni after a winning football game. Coleman hailed the court for allowing both the University and other institutions of higher learning to use the Law School’s admissions as a “road map” to model their future policies.
Searching for words to best describe the wave of emotions overtaking her, Coleman appeared overwhelmed.
“It’s very emotional. It’s important for all of higher education,” Coleman said. She added that as long as race can continue to be used in admissions policies, the University has triumphed after six years of court battles that have amounted to nearly nine million dollars in legal fees for the University, which will thankfully be covered by its insurance.
Although filed against Coleman’s predecessor, Lee Bollinger, Coleman’s excitement appeared personal. At times, she seemed close to tears, suggesting that in the 10 months since she began her tenure as president, she has become devoted to the diversity and ideologies embodied by the University.
“We believe that it extends far beyond these admissions. We believe it extends to financial aid, to academic support programs, to outreach programs, to leadership programs. We believe that ultimately, it will have an impact on corporate America – what they do in their affirmative action hiring, This is a huge, huge victory,” she said.
Despite the fact that the court struck down the current undergraduate admissions guidelines, Coleman emphasized it is not necessary to go “all the way back to the drawing board.”
“The court has provided two important signals. The first is a green light to pursue racial and ethnic diversity in the college classroom. The second is a pathway to get us there,” Coleman said in an e-mail to the student body.
With a “road map” in place, Coleman said revamping the University’s undergraduate policies will not be challenging in the coming months. Optimistic, Coleman expects new guidelines to be in place as the University begins receiving applications this fall.
The class of 2007 will not only be as diverse as years past, Coleman said, but also – in accordance with the court’s decision – there will be more individualized attention focused on the estimated 25,000 applicants applying for admissions.