Representatives of the Michigan Student Assembly’s legislative branch passed a resolution yesterday in support of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision to uphold affirmative action.
While six representatives of the Student Assembly voted no and five abstained, 11 members of the assembly voted in favor of the resolution. The assembly’s representatives debated the resolution, with a number of people opposed to affirmative action due to its basis on race rather than socioeconomic status. Only 22 representatives out of 40 active representatives in the Student Assembly voted at yesterday’s meeting.
The resolution that passed does not take a definitive stance on what the University’s policy toward affirmative action should be. Instead, it states that MSA supports the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in July that ruled a ban on affirmative action is unconstitutional. However, last month, the court said it would rehear the case.
The text of the Senate Assembly resolution states that there has been a 36-percent drop in minority enrollment in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts since the 2006 statewide ban on affirmative action. Additionally, there has been a 26-percent decrease in minority enrollment in the College of Engineering, a 56-percent drop in the Law School and a 48-percent decrease in the Medicine School, according to the resolution.
MSA President DeAndree Watson said he supports the resolution and is pleased it passed.
“I think that it’s good that we supported it, but I also think it’s important that we acknowledge the concerns that were raised, which is that students want to see this as a holistic view,” Watson said. “I think it’s good that students, particularly student leaders at the University of Michigan, are looking at this issue.”
A number of representatives, including Engineering Rep. Crissie Zuchora, objected to the resolution on the basis that affirmative action doesn’t address socioeconomic status.
“Just taking in race and ethnicity is not enough for affirmative action. It should also take in social-economic considerations, and that’s why I opposed,” Zuchora said in an interview after the meeting.
The resolution’s author, Art & Design Rep. Ryan Herberholz, told the assembly that the opportunity to attend a public university should be equal for everyone, regardless of what resources may have been available to them in high school. Herberholz said despite the fact that he would have been a prime candidate for socioeconomic affirmative action, he believes race-based affirmative action evens out the playing field.
“This is an equalizing factor … it’s not hurting anybody,” he said.
Zuchora said she would like to pass another resolution in the future that considers socio-economic status. Watson agreed that socio-economic status should be a factor in affirmative action.
“We’ve moved beyond the era where it’s blatant racism, and it’s more of an issue about your socio-economic status and your background,” Watson said.
Rackham student Kate Stenvig, a member of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action by Any Means Necessary, was one of the authors of the resolution. Though she is not a member of the Student Assembly, she was in attendance last night and spoke during the community concerns portion of the meeting.
In an interview after the meeting, Stenvig said it is crucial that University students take a stand in support of affirmative action.
“Students at U of M have a really important opportunity to play a leading role nationally in the fight to defend affirmative action,” Stenvig said.
— Alison Weissbrot and Robbie Austin contributed to this report.