At a time when certain states are passing uncompromising anti-immigration laws and others are striving their best to effectively make abortion illegal, it’s reassuring that Michigan is leaning toward a civil rights victory. Last Friday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-to-1 to overturn the Orwellian Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (commonly known as Proposal 2), ruling that the ban on considerations of race and gender in public-university admissions and government hiring is unconstitutional. This ruling was the first step to restoring affirmative action in Michigan. For the sake of equality and diversity, it must be upheld in the likely future appeal process.
Affirmative action is one of the means to make our society more equal, and attempts to block it are attempts to maintain an unacceptable status quo. Minorities continue to suffer from huge social and institutional disadvantages due to historical and contemporary prejudices. A disproportionate amount of minority students receive suboptimal educations in underfunded school systems. Income equality among races is still a dream.
These problems require more than one solution, and reversing Proposal 2 won’t solve all of them. But while politicians fail to address other problems that lead to differences in socioeconomic status, it will be devastating to already disenfranchised racial groups if Michigan institutions are forbidden from mitigating the societal factors that limit the success of minorities.
Yet when it comes to affirmative action, it’s not just equality that matters. “Diversity” has become a buzzword these days, but it doesn’t lessen the importance of interacting with people of different backgrounds, beliefs and experiences. Diversity is part of what makes our experience at the University so rewarding. Being around people who are different from ourselves allows us to critically evaluate our own opinions and beliefs and compare them to others who are different. In order to provide a meaningful education, and to stimulate the intellects and the values of undergraduate students, an admissions system needs to be based on more than just SAT scores.
It’s not just the University that believes this — the United States Supreme Court does too. In Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003, the Court upheld the admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School, which allowed for the consideration of race in combination with academic and extracurricular achievements. The majority ruling stated that the United States Constitution “does not prohibit the law school’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions to further a compelling interest in obtaining the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.” Proposal 2 put this ruling on hold, but it may not last much longer. It potentially has to survive a likely appeal in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court in which all sixteen judges vote (instead of just three) before reaching the Supreme Court. Legal experts say the case could go either way in each court. In the interest of racial equality and diversity in the face of unchanging socioeconomic status, each court should uphold the reversal of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.