Cheers of victory and success could be heard throughout campus yesterday by advocates of affirmative action as they rallied in support of the much anticipated U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on the University’s admissions policies.
Though the decision itself was a split one, representatives of both Students Supporting Affirmative Action and The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary declared yesterday a victory for all students, minority and otherwise, at the University and at other institutions of higher learning across the United States.
“Today the Supreme Court upheld the principle of race-conscious admissions policies and that is a victory for all students, here and across the country,” said Michigan Student Assembly President Angela Galardi at an SSAA press conference on the Diag.
Galardi and other members of SSAA addressed fellow students and community members yesterday, touching upon many facets of the Supreme Court ruling as well as its implications for the University’s student body.
“The court upheld the principle while critiquing the process,” Galardi said.
Recent law school graduate Brandy Johnson praised the court’s decision while also reminding fellow students that the struggle for equality is not yet over.
“The court’s ruling today acknowledges what communities of color and their allies have known all along – that race still matters in America, and that color-blindness is irrelevant in a society where race continues to shape the distribution of resources in wealth, education, housing, the criminal justice system and beyond.”
Harlyn Pacheco, LSA junior and political action chair of La Voz Latina, called yesterday’s decision a victory not only for diversity but also for democracy.
Student supporters of affirmative action also addressed the fact that the rulings represent larger implications in society.
“These cases shape the national sentiment about diversity in America. These cases are not just about one university or just affirmative action, these cases represent the country’s continual commitment of leveling the playing field for all people,” said Julio Perez, School of Public Policy student and a member of Students of Color of Rackham and Students of Color in Public Policy, in a written statement.
LSA junior Christen Flack said of the split decision that, “even though there was a split, they are still allowing race to be a factor in both cases.”
“This is good because race needs to be a factor because racism is still a factor,” she added.
Flack also spoke about the difference between being granted admission into the University and actually continuing after the first year.
“One thing that I’ve always noticed here is that getting into the University of Michigan is one thing but staying in is another.” Flack cited the fact that “the University of Michigan has one of the highest turnaround rates for keeping African American freshman over into their sophomore year.”
Although some said race-conscious admissions are necessary, many hope it might become irrelevant in the future.
“The diversity of the University of Michigan has been one of my own greatest learning experiences, and while I hope there will be a day when we don’t need affirmative action to aid in that goal of diversity, I don’t think we have reached that day yet,” said Margaret Vincent, a law student and member of the LGBT Speakers’ Bureau
On the steps of the Michigan Union, BAMN members voiced their support and addressed issues similar to those touched upon by SSAA representatives, agreeing that although part of the University’s admissions policies were struck down, it was a minor and insignificant aspect of a much larger system.
Agnes Aleobua, BAMN member and former MSA representative from the Defend Affirmative Action Party, called the fact the decision was a split one a “very nominal point” and also called this a “100 percent victory.”
She also said that the struggle is not yet over: “we have the whole country to take on now.”
“Racism exists in the society and we will not stop until racism is eradicated throughout this country,” she added.
Shanta Driver, national spokeswoman for BAMN, addressed the changes that the University will have to make in its admissions policies by saying, “(The University) can use a more nuanced system, a more individualized system, and achieve the exact same thing that it achieved with the point system.”
Agreeing with Aleobua, Driver said that this was a minor aspect of the ruling: “The point system was a red herring, it didn’t matter, and it does not matter that it was overturned.”
But a few affirmative action supporters did not see the ruling as a victory.
“We look at the undergrad decision as a defeat because we will be losing enrollment for black students,” said LSA sophomore and BAMN member Sarah Barnard.