Court Strikes Down Michigan’s Ban on Affirmative Action

In a ruling that could lead to a Supreme Court battle, an appeals court struck down an amendment to the Michigan constitution which banned colleges from considering race and gender during the admissions process.  This practice, known as affirmative action, is understandably controversial: proponents say that it helps minorities and other groups gain a level footing because of past and present discrimination, while critics claim that it unfairly advantages women and minorities.

NPR reports that the court was mostly concerned with how the ban was created.  Because it entered as an amendment to the state constitution, it can only be altered by another statewide vote, placing what the court saw as an undue burden on minorities who might attempt to overturn it.  In the majority opinion, Judge R. Guy Cole explained that supporters could have created “less onerous avenues to effect political change…the majority has not only won, but also rigged the game to reproduce its success indefinitely.”

The ban’s proponents said that they will appeal the decision, to ensure that, in the words of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, “Entrance to our great universities must be based upon merit.”  Others, including a woman who successfully sued the University of Michigan over racial preferences before there referendum, added that because this was what 58 percent of Michigan voters wanted in 2006, the ban will stay in place.

However, the ACLU praised the ruling, saying that it “kept the door open for thousands of academically qualified students of color to continue to pursue the American dream through our state’s colleges and universities.”

Perhaps most interestingly, major businesses like General Motors joined ACLU in lauding the court’s majority.  Companies’ hiring practices were impacted by the ban, and its overturn, according to a former General Motors executive, “gives governments and universities the tools they need to improve diversity and inclusion.”

Clearly, the stage is set for the battle to continue, and neither side has definitively won.  But the court does raise an interesting point: even if voters implement something like a ban on affirmative action, are there methods of enforcement, like constitutional amendments, that are just too onerous for minorities to successfully oppose?  And then of course there is the longer debate about affirmative action itself, and whether it has a place in college admissions and hiring practices.

What do you think?  Should Michigan voters’ ban on affirmative action stand, or should it be struck down?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Grace Adams
Grace Adams6 years ago

At the level of colleges admitting students, affirmative action has some educational value in giving students classmates from a wider variety of ethnic and even class backgrounds than they would get if the colleges chose students strictly on the basis of high school grades, test scores, and credentials from extra-curricular activities.

Gar Mosey
Gar M6 years ago

Get rid of Affirmative Action for good! Several times I had to work with Affirmative Action hires. The only reason they had a job was because the government forced the business to hire them.

The result? They were lazy, illiterate, not fit for anything but sweeping floors and cleaning toilets. I got sick of picking up their slack VERY quickly! My employer could not fire them for fear of a lawsuit. Another nice job from the idiots in D.C.!

Abbe A.
Azaima A6 years ago

With the economy tanking, educational institutions are becoming more irrelevant. This may be a non issue shortly.

Danny W.
Danny Wilson6 years ago

Back to the dark ages...

Eric Lees
Eric Lees6 years ago

Affirmative action does not help minorities it hurts them (at least in the private sector). Let me explain less someone thinks I'm racist or just crazy. So you go to a school or work some place that has affirmative action. Everyone will have in their mind that their fellow minority student or coworker is only there because of affirmative action and not because they deserve to be there based on their abilities.

Or you can look at it from an employees perspective if they have 2 equal candidates but one is a minority they will choose to hire the non minority due to the risk the minority would bring. Because if you fire a minority they could use the race card to sue you where as a non minority hire doesn't carry this risk.

Or if there are 2 competing companies, company A only hires white guys with blond hair, company B hires whoever would be the best fit. Customers catch on to the trend at company A, someone posts on Facebook, twitter, or Care2. Next thing you know customers are boycotting company A and they either change their ways or go out of business. That's the beauty of the Fee Market, no government red tape required.

Alice H.
Alice H6 years ago

Our history of discrimination is hardly behind us, even as overt discrimination is less common our past continues to haunt us. It will take several more generations before we can even imagine that society is evening up and only then if we actually work to make society more egalitarian.

Mary Leon
Mary A Leon6 years ago

Ever since January of this year, when the new GOP Tea Party Governors were sworn into office, they have been trying to cancel almost everything the Federal Government has been doing for years (Medicare, Medicaid, Union Rights, Affirmative Action, etc...). They seem to think that this will be a winning strategy for the 2012 Elections.

They must not be taking their Sanity Meds anymore.

Tamara H.
Tamara H6 years ago

Stick a fork it, it is so DONE.

Doyal D.
Doyal D6 years ago

The country isn't done needing affirmative action.