The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative will probably pass if it reaches the 2006 state ballot and most likely can only be defeated by efforts to have it disqualified before the election, said Miranda Massie, lead attorney for the BAMN-led student intervenors in the Grutter v. Bollinger case.MCRI, a state ballot initiative that would ban the use of race and gender in University admissions and state employment, submitted more than 500,000 signatures — well over the required 317,757 — to the state Board of Elections in January.Massie’s comments came during a forum at Hutchins Hall last night, sponsored by BAMN and the Black Law Students’ Alliance, on strategies to defeat MCRI.Massie said it is important for students to defeat the initiative and reverse the drop in minority student enrollment — which decreased 15 percent at the University this year. Massie cited the effects of the 1996 passage of California’s Proposition 209, which is nearly identical to MCRI, as an example of what Michigan can expect if MCRI passes.“At Berkeley, for example, there is not a single black student in the entire engineering program this year,” Massie said. Massie said defeating MCRI is important not only because of the effect it would have on Michigan but because of the symbolic importance of the University’s race-conscious admissions policies.“I think it’s important that students understand how important Michigan is in playing a role in the fight to defend affirmative action and rebuild the civil rights movement,” she said. “For students that have gotten here too late, they can expand the civil rights movement and its quality and further it to more important audiences.” Although polls show that MCRI has well over 60 percent approval among the Michigan public, Massie attributed its support to confusing language, saying California’s similar Proposition 209 passed for that reason.“The majority of people who voted for Proposition 209 did not know they were voting against affirmative action,” Massie said. “They thought they were voting for an expansion of the civil rights movement.”But in an earlier interview, Chetly Zarko, MCRI director of outreach said that the language of the proposition is not deceptive, unlike what BAMN claims. “We’re confident that the language of our petition is legal,” Zarko said.Massie said she along with BAMN would challenge the petition before the Board of State Canvassers — the body that verifies signatures before a proposal can be put on the next ballot. The Board of State Canvassers is going to allow BAMN and its supporters 10 days to invalidate the signatures collected by MCRI after the signatures have been put into the computer. The computer is going to randomly select 500 signatures and if a significant number of the signatures is proven invalid, the proposition will not be put on the ballot. Massie said MCRI’s opponents will try to convince the courts that the language of the proposition is vague and deceiving. Also, they will try to convince the courts that MCRI has hired black parolees to administer the petition in order to appeal to minorities. MCRI, Massie said, has also tried to collect signatures by using fraudulent language to describe the petition. “Without affirmative action, what you have is an unrestrained regime of white privilege,” Massie said. “It’s harder on black and other minority students. Affirmative action offsets that.” Ben Royal, a first-year graduate student in the School of Education and an organizer for BAMN, said affirmative action is vital to a just society. “I prefer to live in a society with justice, and we can’t have it without affirmative action,” Royal said.Royal said the most effective action that students can take right now to defend affirmative action on campus is to involve in the campaign to defeat MCRI.

Chelsea Trull
Attorney Melinda Mirassi speaks in Hutchins Hall at the Law School yesterday on strategies to defeat the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, a ballot measure that would ban the use of affirmative action by the University and other state institutions. (Julia

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