MSU officials are uncertain whether admissions policies could change in coming months, after a federal appeals court struck down a six-year-old statewide ban on using affirmative action in university admissions Thursday.
The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled Thursday afternoon that the 2006 Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, or MCRI — which amended the state Constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment in admissions — was unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
The court held that the MCRI “runs afoul” of equal protection by disallowing university officials from considering race in admissions.
In a statement, university spokesman Kent Cassella said administrators are reviewing the court’s opinion to determine its effect on university admissions. He said they also would consider the University of Texas’ affirmative action case, which currently is being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
MSU currently does not use affirmative action in admissions decisions.
Cassella previously said MSU has not taken a stance on the MCRI’s constitutionality.
MSU officials were uncertain on how the case will affect university admissions, but some student minority leaders are pleased with the court’s ruling.
“It was definitely a happy moment,” said Silver Moore, president of the Black Student Alliance. “I’m curious to see in what ways it will affect the offices on campus.”
Attorney General Bill Schuette, who requested the court rehear the case in 2011, vowed to file the case with the U.S. Supreme Court within 90 days.
“MCRI embodies the fundamental premise of what America is all about: equal opportunity under the law,” Schuette said in a statement.
The court’s decision comes just weeks after another highly publicized affirmative action case found its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, in which Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was rejected from the University of Texas in 2008, sued the school because she did not believe applicants should be required to specify their race.
Luis Miguel Zarco, co-chair of Culturas de las Razas Unidas, or CRU, who has followed the Fisher case, said he had not yet taken a side on the case, but feels minorities often need a “leg up” against applicants who might be better off in admissions.
But Zarco said it also is hard to get angry about affirmative action cases, such as Fisher’s, because he believes everyone deserves an opportunity at their preferred school.
“The idea you might not get in because of affirmative action — it does feel like you’re bringing someone up, but also pushing someone else down,” he said.
To Moore, the appeals court ruling is not aimed to give anyone an extra boost, but will ensure equal opportunities for all students.
“Some people look at it as a way to give people an advantage, but it is a way to level the playing field,” Moore said.