Affirmative action up for debate


Men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo and university officials showed support for the University of Texas in a U.S. Supreme Court case that could decide the fate of affirmative action in university admissions policies.

But the court’s ruling, not expected for several months, is unlikely to affect affirmative action in Michigan public institutions, university officials said.

The case was filed after 22-year-old Texan Abigail Fisher was denied admission into the University of Texas and consequently sued the school, claiming she was turned down because she was white. Fisher said she does not think applicants should have to specify their race.

The Supreme Court heard arguments for the case Wednesday morning.

Both Izzo and university officials signed onto court amicus briefs with other institutions celebrating diversity in public institutions — they did not, however, go as far as to support affirmative action policies.

The amicus brief MSU signed was filed by independent law firm Morrison & Foerster, and supported by dozens of other higher education institutions, university spokesman Jason Cody said.

By signing on the brief, the university was expressing its concerns for extensive Supreme Court involvement in higher education affairs, Cody said.

“(Signing) wasn’t necessarily based on the merit of the case,” Cody said. “It was less about the contents of the case and more of the institution’s opinion on whether the Supreme Court should … have a say.”

In the written brief, Izzo praised increased diversity in college sports.

“Today our teams reflect a high degree of racial and socioeconomic diversity,” Izzo’s brief read.

MSU’s policy on the issue of affirmative action rests on the fate of Proposal 2, which currently is in the U.S. Court of Appeals after Attorney General Bill Schuette requested it be reconsidered in 2011. The university currently does not use affirmative action policies in admissions.

The 2006 proposal originally banned affirmative action in public colleges in Michigan.

Cody said although MSU signed the brief, the two universities’ affirmative action policies are so different that the court’s ruling likely won’t have a local effect.

Cody said MSU is monitoring the issue but has no policy stance on the case.

University spokesman Kent Cassella added the reasoning the Supreme Court uses in the ruling could affect all public universities in some way.

Cassella said MSU has not taken a stance on the constitutionality of Proposal 2 and will continue to abide by the law.

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