Saturday, February 24, 2024

Students debate ruling

ANN ARBOR - Two days after a federal judge ordered the University of Michigan law school to stop using race in its admissions policies, the Rev. Jesse Jackson urged students at a campus rally to fight the ruling.

Jackson told hundreds of students at an afternoon rally Thursday to take up where the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s left off.

“You must not let them turn back the clock,” he said. “Ann Arbor, it’s your day. Don’t let these Confederates turn back the clock.”

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman on Tuesday ruled the use of race in admissions at the Michigan law school is unconstitutional.

The university on Wednesday asked Friedman to put on hold his order while it appeals.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights brought a lawsuit on behalf of Barbara Grutter, a white woman who claimed she was denied admission in 1997 because less-qualified minorities get preferential treatment.

Larry Purdy, an attorney for the Center for Individual Rights, said Friedman’s decision was “a powerful reaffirmation of the rights of every individual.”

Jackson called on Michigan students to organize a nationwide gathering on the campus in May to discuss the issue. He also urged students to participate in a march on Washington in October.

“I support affirmative action, because I support diversity as a Chinese-American student on this campus,” said Elaine Liu, 19, a sophomore from Harrisburg, Pa. “I was definitely motivated by his speech. He makes me want to do something.”

Freshman Megan Kain, 18, said she was just passing by when she heard Jackson and wanted to stop and listen.

“I was captivated with his speech, even though I don’t agree with all that he was saying.”

Kain said she supported Friedman’s decision.

“I think it is almost insulting to people of color,” she said of affirmative action.

Friedman departed from how some other courts have interpreted the Supreme Court’s 1978 Bakke case, which allowed consideration of race in university admissions but outlawed racial quotas.

Michigan President Lee Bollinger said it’s going to be a hard fight, but he doesn’t believe the university should give up on protecting affirmative action.

“All we can do in higher education is articulate our principals and beliefs and bring them to the proper tribunals,” Bollinger said. “Diversity and melting pot go hand in hand.”

Jeffrey Lehman, dean of Michigan’s law school, said Thursday that the university stands behind its “appropriate conservative” approach to affirmative action, which includes no quotas.

Friedman’s ruling acknowledged there is a “long and tragic history of race discrimination in this country.” However, he said, the law school’s justification for using race to assemble a racially diverse student population is not a compelling state interest.

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