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Proposal 2: A year later

November 15, 2007

Some say it brought multicultural groups on campus together. Some say it has had little impact on how MSU recruits faculty and students. Some say it made diversity efforts on campus more collaborative and inclusive for everyone. Some say it poses a real threat to maintaining a multicultural university.

Proposal 2, known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, passed last fall banning public institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on race, gender, ethnicity or national origin.

Since the amendment took effect Dec. 23, it has caused concern along with many changes. But one thing is clear: The effects of Proposal 2 need more time before they can be fully deciphered.

Drawing conclusions

When the new restrictions under Proposal 2 took effect, MSU was midcycle in its admissions process, so it’s difficult to conclude how admissions were impacted, said Paulette Granberry Russell, director of the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives.

Before Proposal 2, prospective students’ admissions applications may have contained their race, sex, ethnicity or national origin, but such information is no longer included.

“Clearly, there is a concern that Proposal 2 can have a chilling effect on whether students or faculty or staff are recruited to MSU,” Granberry Russell said. “We have and will continue to look at ways at which to recruit a diverse pool. That’s always been MSU’s approach.”

Out of a total 46,045 students for fall 2007, Chicano enrollment decreased 6.3 percent from 2006, for a total of 400 students, black enrollment declined 3.3 percent, to total 3,408. Hispanic enrollment declined 2.6 percent and Asian/Pacific Islander enrollment declined 0.8 percent.

American Indian/Alaskan Native enrollment increased 6.1 percent, Caucasian (Non-Hispanic) enrollment increased 0.4 percent and international enrollment increased 9.7 percent. Ethnic origin for 743 students was not reported.

Since there is the likelihood Proposal 2 did or could have an impact, Granberry Russell said they will continue to closely monitor enrollment by ethnic origin.

Sylvester Yavana, a political theory and constitutional democracy senior from New York, said he was originally thinking of staying in Michigan for graduate-level work, but the passage of Proposal 2 has him thinking otherwise.

“Why would I want to stay here? It’s going to be harder for me to get scholarships, and I’ll see less faces like me in the university,” he said.

Yavana, who also is academic retention director for Black Student Alliance and student leader for Multi-Racial Unity Living Experience, said he is considering going home to continue his studies because Proposal 2 has made it seem like Michigan doesn’t value diversity.

“Affirmative action gave historically marginalized groups a catch up — it wasn’t a free ride,” he said.

U-M adjusts

Also complying with Proposal 2’s restrictions, University of Michigan discontinued its consideration of race, gender, ethnicity and national origin from its “holistic review process” for the admissions season beginning Jan. 10. The factors were considered during its first admissions season, which ended in December.

“Recruitment of a diverse class is a set of tasks that are distributed throughout our campus, with a hub of undergraduate recruitment in our Office of Undergraduate Admission,” said Lester P. Monts, U-M’s senior vice provost for academic affairs and senior counselor to the president for the arts, diversity and undergraduate affairs.

In the fall 2007 freshman class of 5,992 students, the percentage of underrepresented minority students enrolled declined from 12.7 percent to 11.4 percent. This number is about the same as last year but declined due to a larger incoming class size, according to University of Michigan News Service.

In overall enrollment, the number of black students declined by 3.3 percent, Hispanic American students increased by 1 percent, white students increased by 2.1 percent, Native American students declined by 1.2 percent and Asian American students increased by 0.4 percent.

“For numerous reasons we will continue to track the number of students in the various racial, ethnic, gender and national origin categories,” Monts said. “This tracking will tell us how we are doing with our enrollment numbers and the diversity within the student body.”

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The role of scholarships

For those who have been admitted to MSU, financial aid or scholarships may play into their decision-making process.

About a half-dozen scholarships that included race or gender criteria were discontinued at MSU, Rick Shipman, director of financial aid, told The Detroit News for a Nov. 5 article.

A new scholarship is being considered for those funds, he said.

Shipman did not return repeated calls or e-mails from The State News.

U-M will continue its M-PACT grant program, which provides need-based grant assistance to in-state undergraduates at its Ann Arbor campus and has created the new Michigan Tradition and Michigan Experience awards.

The Michigan Tradition Award gives funds to students from underrepresented high schools, geographic areas and socioeconomic populations, and the Michigan Experience Award rewards students who have participated in educational opportunity programs like the Upward Bound Program.


One of the practices not affected by Proposal 2 was the university’s affirmative action program for the recruitment, employment and retention of MSU employees.

A provision of the amendment says that Proposal 2, “does not prohibit actions that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, if ineligibility would result in loss of federal funds to the state.”

Granberry Russell said the university will continue to post positions in a way to attract a diverse application pool.

MSU stationery has been changed to include the statement, “MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.”

MSU offices also have undergone some changes.

After more than a year of strategic vision discussions, the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives changed its name from the Office for Affirmative Action, Compliance and Monitoring, Granberry Russell said.

Discussions were started prior to Proposal 2 passing, but the name change was intended to recognize the wide range of activities involved in the office besides affirmative action, she said. The office has always had an inclusive approach, and the new name simply identifies its resources better, she said.

Former Office of Racial Ethnic Student Affairs has changed its name to the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT, and the ORESA Aide program has broadened its focus as well — it is now known as the Transition and Cultural Aide Program.

The aide program has 66 students of multicultural backgrounds living and working in the residence halls to help acclimate freshmen to the university, said Tom Rios, associate vice president of Student Affairs and Services and acting director of OCAT.

Student groups unite

These aides’ backgrounds have broadened as well, Rios said. About five are international students, three are white and many are members of the four Council of Racial Ethnic Students, or CORES, groups: Black Student Alliance, Culturas de las Razas Unidas, Asian Pacific American Student Organization and North American Indigenous Student Organization.

Another program that has changed is the Black Male Initiative, now known as Student Success Initiative, which gave academic support to a demographic traditionally underrepresented in higher education, Rios said.

Multicultural student groups on campus have offered mixed reactions to the amendment.

After campaigning against Proposal 2 with many of the CORES groups last fall, Kunxing Guo, co-president of APASO, said the campus seems more united, even though the amendment passed.

“This year we have a lot more communication,” she said. “The four CORES groups even had events together, unlike in past years when nobody knew each other. We’re definitely more united because of it.”

But as for the future effects of Proposal 2 — Guo said potential students could be put off by the state’s ban on affirmative action programs or even changes to some of MSU’s programs, like the ORESA Aides.

“It’ll be in some people’s minds, but if they really have the goal of going to college in mind, they’re not going to let that stop them,” she said.


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