The affirmative action cases may have
ended this summer, but its wake is still strong both on campus and
off. On Dec. 2, the Daily reported that the University had mailed
1,400 acceptance letters to potential incoming freshman, as opposed
to 2,200 at the same time last year. The U.S. Supreme Court
decision has meant that high school seniors are spending more time
on their applications, which require that applicants to the College
of Literature, Science and the Arts complete two 250- and one
500-word essays. Race and diversity aside, why it took a Supreme
Court ruling for the University to figure out that number crunching
does not a good admissions decision make is mysterious, but we can
be glad that the new application’s thoughtful format tries to give
those students room to stand out whose standardized tests scores
and “legacy” (whether their parents are University alumni) do not
speak on their behalf.

Kate Green

But predictably, there are still more conservative voices
waiting in the wings for whom the Supreme Court’s compromise wasn’t
good enough. A statewide ballot proposal in Michigan, promoted by
University of California Regent Ward Connerly, which aims to ban
any form of race-based college admissions decisions or employee
hiring practices, looms close on the horizon. On Friday, the
Detroit News reported that “A broad coalition of business, labor
and social groups led by a retired brigadier general [Gen. Michael
Rice] has emerged to fight [the proposal].” On campus, the usual
suspects are already moving into high gear to do the same.

But there’s one other drip from the Supreme Court decision
runoff that has only caught people’s attention in passing. This is
the question of how much the University is willing to put its money
where its mouth is on the idea “diversity of viewpoint” – an
ultimate aim of affirmative action in its admissions process, and
one which is logically connected to race, ethnic, and socioeconomic
diversity.

On Nov. 14, the Daily ran an article, “Lawmaker criticizes
‘slanted view of reality’ on ‘U’ campus,” which quoted state Rep.
Leon Drolet (R-Clinton Twp.) as saying that the University
contradicts its goal of diversity, which by its current policies is
only “skin-deep.” “I hope the University will stop treating people
like pieces of skin,” Drolet said, “but rather as minds.” Knowing
people in admissions and having read the new application, Drolet’s
remarks not only come off as offensive and insensitive, but also as
incorrect.

But this kind of sentiment is out there, so much so that back in
September Mike Rosen of the Rocky Mountain News recommended that
“The solution [to liberal bias in academia, specifically in the
humanities and social sciences] is to provide more competition in
the war of ideas by recruiting conservatives who can speak with the
same conviction for the things in which they believe.” Affirmative
action for conservatives? For this idea’s proponents, it seems,
it’s not all about a meritocracy.

In a note “From the Desk of David Horowitz” found at
FrontPagemagazine.com, Horowitz tells the story of an ROTC student
at Bowling Green who, long story short, was failed in a class on
the Vietnam War by “a ’60s leftist professor who regarded America
as an imperialist monster.” There are a healthy number of similar
stories to be found on the website, and my inclination is to
believe them.

The last thing we need, though, is a fight for quotas for
conservatives. If this is the case, that a “conservative” viewpoint
is both grossly mis- and underrepresented at public universities,
we haven’t learned our lessons in sensitivity and tolerance from
the whole affirmative action debate. I don’t consider myself a
conservative (even after three and a half years on a campus where
the “Left” could not be more annoying), but I did feel
uncomfortable when, in an Italian class at Berkeley this summer,
the teacher went off on a 20-minute rant about the evils of the
United States, in Italian. I saw my classmates try to voice their
opinions, but it was pretty difficult to do when the teacher
required that they respond to his political arguments in a language
they’d been studying for six weeks.

The Right, instead of demanding the installation of an
institutional framework for proportional representation of
political views amongst the faculty, should forget cynicism for a
moment and instead campaign to educate the campus in sensitivity to
political diversity now that the word is out about racial and
ethnic diversity. The last thing we need is bipolar smarminess,
where the left grins and tells the right, “so you want quotas after
all, eh?” and the right responds, “if you like affirmative action
so much, make it comprehensive.” What this boils down to, to borrow
from other campus movements, is fewer “blue-outs” and more
“fast-a-thons.”

So that’s it, after two and a half years, my last Daily
column. In the words of Sappho, it’s been glukopikros. More
sweetbitter than bittersweet.

Thank you: Emily Achenbaum, Mike Grass, Nick Woomer, Geoff
Gagnon, Jon Schwartz, Manish Raiji, Aubrey Henretty, Zac Peskowitz,
Jason Pesick and most importantly, readers of The Michigan Daily.
You are impossible, and that’s great.

Hanink can be reached at
“mailto:jhanink@umich.edu”>jhanink@umich.edu.

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