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As Michigan Affirmative Action Vote Nears, Campaigns Pick Up

In the final run-up to Tuesday’s mid-term elections, several groups from the college basketball coaches to the police are bombarding voters in Michigan with messages about the impact of the Proposal 2 referendum, which would ban affirmative action in, among other things, college admissions.

“I know what it takes to build a team, and that is diversity,” says Tom Izzo, head coach of the Michigan State men’s basketball team. “We need all kinds of players on our team, and we need all kinds of students on our campus if we are going to be successful in building the Michigan of tomorrow.”

Izzo joined other coaches from rival teams — University of Michigan, Central Michigan University and Wayne State University – at a press conference reiterating their commitment to diversity.

Ernie Zeigler, head men’s basketball coach at Central Michigan University and former assistant coach at the University of California Los Angeles, says they are “not political heavyweights but just coaches who work with eager young men from all over the state, including the urban community. We know these young men deserve an opportunity. And they will repay you if you just give them a chance.”

However, a recent Detroit News/WXYZ-TV poll shows Proposal 2 leads 49-41 with 10 percent undecided, leaving the fate of the measure to a vast minority of undecided voters.

Ads from both One United Michigan, the main opponents to the measure, and The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, sponsors of the initiative, have been peppering the airwaves and popular Internet sites such as YouTube with their slogans. One United Michigan is urging voters to “Vote No on Proposal 2 – don’t let a media campaign from California tell you what to do” while the Ward Connerly-backed Civil Rights Initiative is out with “Yes on Proposal 2 – Fairness. Equality.”

Among the numerous messages is a new report by the University of Michigan which warns the measure could have “adverse health effects” on minorities.

Dr. Richard Lichtenstein, an associate professor of health management and policy, warned in a 12-page review that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative would reduce minority enrollments at medical schools.

He says cutting minority enrollments “could have disastrous effects on the health of minority patients, particularly those who live in medically underserved areas like Detroit, Saginaw and Benton Harbor and on those who prefer to see physicians who are from the same racial and ethnic group as themselves.

According to the Institute of Medicine, when one part of the population has poor access to health care, lacks preventative care and experiences more serious illness, it tends to increase the cost and availability of health care for all residents, including the most affluent. Minorities make up 12 percent of enrollment at medical schools.

“Minority populations in the United States suffer disproportionately from poor health status and members of minority groups are more likely to die early from a broad range of diseases,” Lichtenstein adds.

The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan released a statement saying Proposal 2, if passed, would limit diversity in law enforcement and make communities less safe.

“Until women had a say, domestic violence was ignored by our society. Having women in police departments ensures law enforcement serves women as well as men,” says Kay Hoffman, Lansing Township chief of police and president of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

“Having racial and gender diversity in a department enhances community relations, enables departments to have better relations with the law-abiding citizens in a community and gives officers a better chance at resolving problems and solving crimes effectively,” Lansing Police Chief Mark Alley adds.

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