U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Michigan’s Ban On Affirmative Action For University Admissions Against Student Protest

The US Supreme Court upheld a Michigan voter initiative on Tuesday that banned affirmative action in public university admission procedures, according to the New York Times. In 2006, Proposal Two amended the Michigan Constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment including affirmative action measures in Michigan government contracting, employment and public education. Michigan affirmative action supporters, including the controversial group By Any Means Neccessary (BAMN), sued to block the law as it concerns university admissions. The US Supreme court sided with the voters of Michigan who approved Proposal Two with 58 percent of Michigan voters approving the amendment.

The majority of Michigan voters didn’t want race to be an issue in the admission procedures at Michigan public universities. Many are satisfied with the justices’ judgement.

George Washington, who argued the case for BAMN, was very disappointed in the ruling against affirmative action at Michigan universities, according to The Detroit Free Press. “This is a terrible ruling. It gives the white majority the right to deny black and Latinos the right to higher education. It is today’s Plessy v. Ferguson ruling,” he said. “We will fight it by every means possible.”

The justices in the majority stressed that their decision had nothing to to with their judgement the merits of affirmative action. The justices only made a judgement on the process by which Michigan can ban affirmative action, according to NBC News. “There is no authority in the Constitution of the United Stats or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. Still, many in Michigan do oppose affirmative action and consider it a form of reverse racism and that merit should be the only qualifier for university admittance.

Brooke Kimbrough, 17, was recently the focus of a BAMN rally at the University of Michigan after a video of her at the protest went viral. “I believe that I have been rejected because of the morals that I stand for! I am Harriet (Tubman)! I will take back my freedom as a tool to help the others. I have left the plantation.” A reporter for The Detroit Free Press asked Brooke why the university shouldn’t set a high academic bar for admissions. Brooke was denied admission with her 3.6 GPA and ACT score of 23.

Brooke said the University of Michigan needed to represent the state’s population. “Blacks are about 14% of the population, so it should be 14% roughly.” The reporter pointed out that whites were 79 percent of Michigan’s population, but were only 57 percent of the university’s. The reporter asked if the university should shoot for 79 percent white population to represent the state as a whole. “That’s ludicrous,” Brooke told the reporter.

The high school BAMN supporter said the affirmative action should only apply to minorities, but either didn’t express the reason or wasn’t fully quoted as explaining the reason. Brooke became unsure of how to respond when the reporter noted that the University of Michigan’s population is 11 percent Asian American, but Michigan’s was only two percent. Many affirmative action proponents are quick to point out that a more seasoned spokesperson for the group might have pointed out societal hardships afflicting specifically the black population which the reporter wasn’t taking into consideration during what is being called an unfair interview of the young woman.

This is not to say that the University of Michigan’s minority student demands aren’t being addressed at all. The university met with students of the Michigan Black Student Union in January after the group issued seven demands and threatened unspecified “physical action” if they were not met within one week. The university administrators even granted a $300,000 renovation of the campus multicultural center, according to The Michigan Daily. The BSU clarified in a letter that by physical action it meant that they would be forced to increase “physical activism for social progress.” The university also announced plans to boost black student enrollment, according to Huffington Post.

Proponents of affirmative action in Michigan university admissions point out that minorities deal with racism every day making the struggle to succeed harder on minorities and that until equality in society exists, affirmative action within public universities are crucial to offsetting the disparities. What do you think of the US Supreme court ruling that upheld the ban on affirmative action in Michigan’s public universities?

[#BBUM photo cropped to fit formatting, taken by Adam Glanzman on Flickr]