Supporters of the two lawsuits challenging the use of race in admissions said they were shocked and disappointed by Regent Dan Horning’s remarks in a letter to a fellow regent, but said they believe his statement will not affect the outcome of the cases.
In a letter written by Horning (R-Grand Haven) to Regent Kathy White (D-Ann Arbor), which was anonymously sent to The Michigan Daily, Horning expresses anti-affirmative action sentiments and attacks Regent Kathy White for her alleged views on the racial composition of the board.
“I have openly defended the importance of a diverse student body, yet privately I have held to my chest that I don’t think our admissions policies will withstand this legal challenge and I certainly don’t feel they are based on merit,” Horning said in the letter.
Horning went on to say that he believes the University’s admissions policies keep qualified students out, while admitting less qualified minority students.
Miranda Massie, an attorney representing the interveners in the admissions lawsuits, said she believes Horning should either be in support of the University’s policies, or be open with opposing his position.
“I think this guy is clearly a coward and a fraud. The truth supports affirmative action. Anybody who claims to be against affirmative action has to confront the basic fact that he is standing up for the re-segregation of higher ed,” Massie said. “Our position is only favored by an open, honest debate. I don’t think that is what Horning is interested in. I think he is interested in a kind of sabotage and personal grandization.”
Massie said she thinks the remarks by Horning will not have an affect on the outcome of the trial, and also that the timing of the release of the letter to the press, which was written on Feb. 16 and postmarked March 13, is an attempt to alter the court’s decision.
While these comments by Horning came at a time when the University’s admission policies are being reviewed in court, Wayne State University Law Prof. Robert Sedler said he does not believe it will affect the courts decision in the cases of Bollinger v. Gratz and Bollinger v. Grutter.
“The policy of the U-M Board of Regents is to support affirmative action,. Unless they change the policy the case is not mute. The fact that one regent may be having doubt about the policy doesn’t affect anything,” Sedler said. “The only thing the court cares about is if this is still U of M’s policy.”
Two days after the original letter was sent, Horning wrote an apology to White and admitted that he misunderstood her comments made with regard to the chair and vice-chair position of the Board of Regents and retracted everything he said in the letter.
“I am sorry for the comments that I made to you in error and I retract all that was said in my letter,” Horning wrote in his apology. The letter is not the first time Horning has shown opposition to minority issues. In the past he has publicly opposed a University English course titled “How to be Gay,” taught by English Prof. David Halperin.
“I’m offended,” Horning said in Sept. 2000 after he attend one of the class lectures. “There’s no excuse for having this course. I’m bitterly disappointed in the University of Michigan.”
Horning announced last week that he would not be running for re-election because of personal reasons.
White said the letter shocked her and that it was completely unprecedented in conjunction with Horning’s past actions.
“I didn’t make those comments and it is really unfortunate that this situation happened. There seems to be no explanation for what was written in the letter. It is an aberration that Dan responded that way,” White said. “I’ve never heard him speak against affirmative action. … This is really a break from reality.”
Interim University President B. Joseph White, who also received both of Horning’s letters, said he is still confident in the board’s dedication to affirmative action.
“We have had complete and unanimous support from the Board of Regents for our position on affirmative action and our defense in the affirmative action lawsuits and that has been unwavering from the beginning including in the last month,” White said.