If the ballot proposal to ban some forms of affirmative action in Michigan passes next week, this year’s applicants for next fall might be divided into two groups: those who are considered for admission while the University uses race-conscious affirmative action and those who are considered while it doesn’t.
Proposal 2 is a constitutional amendment that would ban the consideration of race, gender and national origin in university admissions policies as well as public hiring and contracting.
If passed, Proposal 2 will likely take effect in late December – in the middle of the undergraduate application cycle.
Unless a court blocks its implementation, the constitutional amendment would immediately become binding on all state actors, including the University. This could create a situation where applicants are evaluated on different criteria, depending on the date their application is reviewed.
As it stands, the University considers an applicant’s race in undergraduate admissions decisions.
According to Law School Dean Evan Caminker, Proposal 2 would forbid the University from considering race in any way.
Maya Kobersy, assistant general council for the University, said there are some legal strategies the University could employ to delay the implementation of Proposal 2, but once it comes into effect the University would abide by the law.
Kobersy said the amendment only applies to actions taken by the University after the amendment takes effect.
Even if a high school senior sent an application to the University today, the application may be considered under a post-Proposal 2 admissions policy if admissions officers haven’t made a decision by the day the amendment takes effect.
“We would certainly want to be fair in our interpretation of when an action (on an application) has been taken,” Kobersy said. “But an application that hasn’t been reviewed hasn’t been reviewed.”
University Provost Teresa Sullivan, who was at the University of Texas system when the Hopwood v. Texas decision ended affirmative action programs in Texas, said the University of Michigan would likely need to revisit its admissions policies if Proposal 2 passes.
“We don’t know for certain whether we would be required to adjust our admissions practices in midstream,” Sullivan said. “But we would do our utmost to ensure the fairness and integrity of our admissions process.”
University officials are not currently saying what, if anything, the University would do to fight the implementation of Proposal 2 if it passes.
After Proposition 209 passed in California in 1996, a court case was filed to block the implementation of the proposition, which was effectively the same as Proposal 2. While briefly successful at blocking the implementation of 209, the injunction was later overturned by a higher court.
The University of Texas system actively fought the Hopwood ruling by requesting a stay on the decision.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the University could not comment on whether it would request a stay delaying the implementation of the amendment so that it could complete the current admissions cycle.
“Our legal strategy is not something we will be able to disclose in advance,” Peterson said.
Even if the University did request a stay, it is not certain that a court would grant it.
Peterson said the University has not developed an alternative admissions policy.
“We are waiting to see if the ballot proposal passes,” Peterson said. “Right now we can’t really speculate on what we will do. We do not have an alternate admissions plan, and we didn’t at the time of the Supreme Court case either.”
Peterson said the University is confident that it will have enough time between next week’s election and when Proposal 2 would take effect to reevaluate all affected programs and policies.
University Regent Kathy White told The Michigan Daily’s editorial board last week that she would likely be in favor of fighting the constitutional amendment in court if the proposal passes.
“I’m just in complete denial,” said White, a law professor at Wayne State University. “But it’s unlikely that this will not pass.”
An EPIC/MRA poll released yesterday shows 49 percent of respondents support the proposal and 42 oppose it. Nine perfect are undecided.
Whatever happens with Proposal 2 and this year’s admissions programs, the University has pledged to remain committed to maintaining a diverse student body.
“Regardless of what happens,” Peterson said, “our commitment to diversity is just as strong and while the methods might have to change, the commitment will still be there.”