Affirmative action has become a difficult topic for discussion in the state of Michigan. With multiple legal battles and statewide votes, the program has been both banned and supported by Michigan universities when making admissions decisions.
Although the latest legal battle has ruled in favor of affirmative action and against a statewide ban in Michigan, some say the matter might be taken to the United States Supreme Court, leaving the highest court of the nation to decide whether a state can ban universities from letting race play a factor when making admissions decisions.
Last week, a federal appeals court struck down a six-year-old statewide ban on using affirmative action in university admissions. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Thursday afternoon that the 2006 Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, or MCRI, was unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The MCRI was a ballot initiative passed by voters in 2006 that amended the state constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment in admissions.
Omari Sankofa II
Although the court ruled against the ban, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he plans to file the case with the U.S. Supreme Court within 90 days, even though the U.S. Supreme Court currently is reviewing a case brought by a student against the University of Texas.
MSU administrators said they are reviewing the appellate court’s opinion to determine its effect on MSU admissions.
Affirmative action is supposed to help level the playing field for racial minorities to help them gain admission to schools dominated by Caucasians, even if they do not have as high of a grade-point average or standardized test score as some Caucasian applicants.
But the need for affirmative action would diminish if Michigan’s government, as well as the federal government, began investing in education early on, especially in poorer neighborhoods and cities. Many believe racial minorities test more poorly and achieve lower GPAs because they can’t afford test preparation courses and are ill-prepared because of less-skilled teachers and dated textbooks.
If Michigan and the federal government began investing more in education and did more to help lower the costs of tuition, they would see a return on their investment through more skilled students and more students better prepared to handle college-level courses after graduating high school.
Affirmative action does not guarantee students who are granted admission will do well in school, but it provides them with the opportunity to learn at a college level at top research institutions regardless of where they grew up or went to school.
And most have found that the group who benefits most from affirmative action programs are Caucasian women, not racial minorities.
In a perfect world, there would be no need for affirmative action. Students would be able to be judged purely off academic performance and standardized test scores, and race or ethnicity would not be a factor in college admissions.
But this is not the case, and although affirmative action is not the perfect solution, it can help racial minorities from poorer neighborhoods gain some of the same opportunities as students from richer neighborhoods.