Just days after affirmative action supporters rallied during a speech by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, representatives of the University’s NAACP chapter attempted to influence a more conservative justice.
At a lecture by Justice Antonin Scalia at the University of Toledo, NAACP representatives tried to encourage him to support the University in the two lawsuits challenging its use of race in the Law School and LSA admissions policies, said Ravi Perry, membership chair of the University chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The court will hear both cases April 1.
“Justice Scalia has a very, very conservative record,” said Perry, who is also the University Party’s presidential candidate for LSA Student Government. “Our members went down in protest of his previous record and in hope that he would somehow change his views.”
Erin Johnson, public relations chair of the Michigan Youth and College division of the NAACP, said she also attended the lecture to “take a look at the opposing view, especially some of (Scalia’s) conservative views.”
Unlike Friday’s rally at Ohio State University, where University of Michigan students protested and carried signs during O’Connor’s speech, the representatives did not try to disrupt Scalia’s lecture because they “didn’t want to turn him off,” Perry said. “The best way to reach (critics of the policies) is by asking questions to let the audience members know we don’t support them. We did that by not clapping,” he said.
Many legal experts believe O’Connor will be the deciding vote in the ruling, and said Scalia will oppose to the University’s policies. Despite this perception, Perry said he hopes Scalia will base his ruling on the constitutionality of the admissions policies instead of political ideology.
“We try to be opportunistic, even with Justice Scalia,” Perry said. “You have people on the court who represent different sides of the issue, but they’re all legal experts.”
Johnson said Scalia’s lecture left her with the impression that he will judge the cases using the original interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
“He is indeed a conservative judge that believes it should be interpreted as the framers wrote it,” she said. “I do think the conservative justices rotate the interpretation of the 14th Amendment to a more narrow interpretation.”
Perry said he asked Scalia about how he could interpret the Constitution in its original language without analyzing its 18th century context, but Scalia dodged the question, he said.
Johnson said while Scalia views appear steadfast, the students’ presence and Perry’s question “kept him on his toes and reminded him that affirmative action is a really important issue.”
Perry said public displays such as this might affect the justices’ opinion.
“The masses affect changes,” Perry said. “The Supreme Court is part of the political system, even though it’s supposed to be non-partisan.”