Just because race- and gender-based affirmative action is now illegal in Michigan, the University doesn’t need to give up on its quest for diversity, said James Jackson, the head of the University’s Institute for Social Research at a panel last night.
Affirmative action, he said, was just one of many means to achieve that goal.
Other ways of achieving racial diversity were the topic of last night’s event at the University’s Alumni Center.
Assistant General Counsel Maya Kobersy said there are still ways to legally help minority students attend the University even after the passage of Proposal 2, the ballot initiative passed last year that banned the use of race- and gender-based affirmative action in Michigan.
“The proposal doesn’t say a lot of the things some people say it does,” she said.
She pointed out that federally funded programs aimed at underrepresented minorities aren’t affected by Proposal 2.
Kobersy said the University works with donors to target scholarships without using race, national origin or gender.
That might mean giving scholarships based on involvement with a certain group – like high school programs for minority scholars – or for being from a certain high school.
“The University remains committed to diversity and we’re doing what we can within the confines of the law to achieve that,” she said.
Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, said the University is working to expand transfers from community colleges and reach out to low- to moderate-income students as a way of increasing diversity.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that the students who attend selective universities are from the higher-income families,” he said.
Those sorts of initiatives weren’t what LSA senior Sheldon Johnson, the speaker of the Black Student Union, was hoping to hear.
Johnson said after the panel he was disappointed with the panel’s focus on the external aspects of Proposal 2 and philanthropy when the administration needs to work to integrate what he called a segregated campus.
“We’re spending time sending people to Washington and California, but we’re not listening to the students here,” Johnson said. “A lot of the problems were problems before Proposal 2.”