Washington— An attorney who is seeking to overturn Michigan’s constitutional ban against racial preferences in university admissions said Thursday the 2006 amendment has created separate and unequal college admissions systems in Michigan that could spread to other states if the law is not struck down.
Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, will make his case Tuesday before the U.S. Supreme Court that pits supporters of affirmative action against the state of Michigan, which is fighting to maintain the ban on race preferences known as Proposal 2.
“Proposal 2 actually contributes to the racial divide and that instead of healing the nation’s wounds it’s actually opening those wounds,” Rosenbaum said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has already upheld the use of race as one factor to consider in university admissions in the landmark University of Michigan Law School 2003 Grutter decision. Following the case, affirmative action foes launched a ballot campaign to amend the state constitution to bar consideration of race, gender and ethnicity in admissions. A majority of Michigan voters approved the ban in 2006.
Diversity has since suffered at the professional schools of Michigan State and Wayne State universities and the University of Michigan, Rosenbaum argued. It has created separate classes of admissions, he said — one where students can talk about any of their background as contributing to student diversity and another where students wanting to talk about race are not only prohibited but need to repeal Michigan’s constitutional amendment to do so.
“That is absolutely unique in our nation’s history that there are two entire playing fields,” Rosenbaum said. “ It is almost unheard of since the Civil War.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said earlier this week he believes the court will uphold the ban that he says is designed to end discrimination.
“It is fundamentally wrong to treat people differently on the basis of your race or the color of your skin,” Schuette said. “We are saying no, we are not going to permit that. We are going to require equal treatment.”