Board Election May Sway Future of Michigan Affirmative Action Lawsuit
ANN ARBOR, Mich.
The issue of whether the University of Michigan will keep in place its affirmative action admissions policy may become a partisan one.
Candidates for two seats on the university’s Board of Regents are offering different opinions as to what should happen with lawsuits filed in 1997 that challenge the university’s consideration of race in admissions decisions.
Republican candidates for the seats say if they win — thereby gaining a 5-3 majority on the board — they will urge the university either to settle the lawsuits or not to appeal if the school loses the suits in U.S. District Court.
Regent candidate Susy Avery, R-Grand Rapids, says the university was wrong in spending more than $4.1 million to defend its policy.
“If I were on that board, I would seriously question this lawsuit and seriously question the cost of what the university is spending,” Avery says. “It just doesn’t seem to be an effective use of university money.”
The Democratic candidates, both incumbents, told The Detroit News for a story earlier this month that they want to continue using race as a factor in admissions decisions.
“Our affirmative action admissions policies are legally educational and morally correct,” says Laurence Deitch, D-Bloomfield Hills, who is seeking re-election to the university board.
Regent Rebecca McGowen, D-Ann Arbor, who also is running for re-election, supports the university’s policy as well.
Governing board members at the university formulate university policy and are elected to eight-year terms. Two seats are up for election every two years. According to a recent poll, a narrow majority of Michigan voters wanted to eliminate affirmative action programs in college admissions, The Detroit News says.
The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights filed the lawsuits against the affirmative action policies on behalf of White students who were not admitted to the university’s Ann Arbor campus.
The lawsuit targeting the law school’s admissions policies is set to begin in January. The undergraduate school trial was postponed due to illness on the part of one of the university’s attorneys, but is expected to begin later this year or early in 2001.
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