Appeals court finds Michigan affirmative action ban unconstitutional
Posted in the Minneapolis Forum
#1 Nov 19, 2012
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals narrowly ruled on Thursday that Michigan’s ban on affirmative action, passed by a ballot initiative in 2006, is unconstitutional.
The court ruled 8 to 7 in Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. University of Michigan that banning affirmative action was a violation of the 14h Amendment’s guarantee to equal protection.
In the majority opinion, Judge R. Guy Cole Jr. writes that while a student has many paths to protect legacy admissions that give special preference to her family’s alumni connections under the state’s constitution,“Thesame cannot be said for a black student seeking the adoption of a constitutionally permissible race-conscious admissions policy.… The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change.”
This is not the conclusion many expect the Supreme Court to come to when it rules on Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin this session, meaning that the court’s Thursday ruling is likely to be taken to the Supreme Court as well.
If the court rules against affirmative action in Fisher and takes on the Sixth Circuit’s ruling on the Michigan ban, things could look very different for colleges that have been using race-conscious admissions. But Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, when talking to Raw Story earlier this week about Fisher, says even if schools are forbidden from using race as a factor in admissions (quotas have long been outlawed by the Supreme Court), they can still maintain racial and ethnic diversity — and may even do a better job on socioeconomic diversity than they have been.
“I’m very encouraged that in the cases where universities have been banned by voter initiative or by the courts they have found new and better ways of affirmative action,” Kahlenberg told Raw Story.“They could come up with a system that’s more fair than simply looking at income or simply looking at race,” He notes, like the Sixth Circuit judges said, preferences for legacy admissions — a policy that affects a disproportionately white and wealthy group — remains intact while affirmative action comes under threat.
In fact, according to a report Kahlenberg and his colleague Halley Potter co-authored last month, schools aren’t doing such a great job with socioeconomic diversity. They noted that an analysis of law school students at UCLA found,“89 percent of African Americans, and 63 percent of Latinos come from the top socioeconomic half of the population.”
They also note that,“One study found that almost nine in ten African Americans at selective colleges are middle or upper class — though whites are even wealthier.”
Raw Story ( http://s.tt/1tMHE )
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