Bollinger to Continue Fighting For Affirmative Action
Although he is leaving this winter to head Columbia University, University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger says he will continue to press the school’s case for affirmative action in admissions.
Speaking at the Association of American Medical Colleges’ annual meeting last month, Bollinger said the outcome of the case will affect all universities, public and private.
“It will determine whether the graduates, majority and minority, will be leaders who have the education and the experience that will enable them to thrive in social and business contexts that are increasingly diverse and international,” he said. “And it will affect the historic commitment of this nation to build an integrated society after 200 years of slavery and exclusion for African Americans and others.”
Bollinger was at the meeting to accept the association’s Herbert W. Nickens, M.D., Award for Diversity. After a speech that lasted about 45 minutes, he received a lengthy standing ovation from the conference attendees.
A lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Individual Rights claims that the university discriminates against Whites in favor of less qualified minorities when it considers race in deciding whether to accept applicants. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case Dec. 6.
Bollinger has been defending the university’s affirmative-action policy on the grounds that diversity improves learning. He said he believes the university will win at the appeals court. But if it loses, he told the association, “the university is committed to taking the matter to the Supreme Court, and I remain committed to doing all I can from my new position at Columbia to furthering these issues in every way that I can.”
In an interview after the speech, Bollinger said he would be present for the arguments at the appeals court. He succeeds Columbia University President George Rupp on Jan. 1, but he said the foundation has been laid for the case to continue without him.
“I also very much don’t want to personalize this issue,” he said. “This is not my policy. … It’s not even the University of Michigan’s policy alone. It’s all of higher education.”
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