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U.S. Judge Lets Michigan Universities Use Affirmative Action, For Now

U.S. Judge Lets Michigan Universities Use Affirmative Action, For Now
By Blair S. Walker

A federal judge has given Michigan universities a six-month extension to continue race- and gender-based admissions, hiring and financial aid, delaying the voter-approved constitutional amendment banning affirmative action that was to go into effect in late December.

A lawsuit filed by the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University sought additional time to study Proposal 2, approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters on Nov. 7. A motion signed by U.S. District Judge David Lawson on delaying implementation means the full impact of Proposal 2 won’t be felt for an additional six months.

Lawson’s motion essentially means that student financial aid linked to affirmative action will continue to be doled out at the three schools until July 1. Also, affirmative action will continue to be used as a basis for admitting incoming underclassmen and graduate students, up to July 1.

The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in, filing a separate lawsuit arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation of the U.S. Constitution permits some university affirmative action, despite the state ban.

The half-year delay approved by Lawson was crafted by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, state Attorney General Mike Cox and attorneys for the three universities. 

“Clearly, I’m sympathetic with the universities seeking a delay,” Granholm says. “The voters have spoken. We understand that. But we’re also extremely committed, as an administration, to diversity, and to fostering diversity.”

The motion approved by Lawson, a member of the U.S. District Court in Detroit,  “ensures that the civil rights community is really at the table as this process to figure out exactly what the impact and reach of Proposal 2 will be plays out,” says Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU.

“We can ensure that a system is arrived at that is both constitutional and promotes a diverse educational environment,” she adds.

Affirmative action foes responded angrily to the news that Michigan’s top three universities can continue to peg admissions and financial aid decisions to affirmative action for another half year.

 “The universities really have no excuse for not implementing Proposal 2 on Dec. 23,” Alan Foutz, a lawyer with the Sacramento, Calif.-based Pacific Legal Foundation, told The Associated Press. “They should have recognized . . . there could be some changes coming down the pike.”

Since the early 1990s, California businessman Ward Connerly has characterized affirmative action as “state-sponsored discrimination.”

An African-American who’d already successfully backed anti-affirmative action propositions in California and Washington State, Connerly went after Michigan in earnest in 2003. Working in tandem with Jennifer Gratz, the co-leader of his Michigan campaign, Connerly added the state to his anti-affirmative action victory column in November.

The next anti-affirmative action campaigns will target Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah.
— Associated Press reports contributed to this story.

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