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Proposed ban on affirmative action incites fiesty debate

Saturday, June 4, 2005

MACKINAC ISLAND - It might be nice if everyone involved in the conversation about affirmative action could agree on what a proposal likely to appear on Michigan's ballot next year would do.

But, if an early debate on the subject at the Detroit Regional Chamber annual policy conference Saturday morning is any indication, it won't happen.

Panelists disagreed in a prickly 90-minute session on what the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative says, what it is intended to do, and what will happen if it passes.

Carl Cohen, a University of Michigan professor working on the campaign to pass the initiative, said MCRI is "just a straightforward question. Do we or do we not allow the state to discriminate by race and gender."

But Frank Wu, dean of the Wayne State University Law School, said consideration of race in university admissions is necessary to compensate for lingering discrimination. Everyone wants our major institutions to reflect the diversity of our society, Wu said, but "it doesn't happen automatically."

The proposed constitutional amendment would ban the use of race and gender in university admissions, government hiring and contracting. But the panel and an audience generally supportive of affirmative action failed to reach consensus about what has happened in other states where similar plans have been enacted, or what specific Michigan programs would be affected under MCRI.

Cohen said it was important to distinguish between affirmative action programs in private industry and those used in college admissions and government hiring, which he called "state-sponsored discrimination."

Dan Mulhern, Gov. Jennifer Granholm's husband who attended the session, told the audience that that is a false distinction, not reflective of the real world where minorities suffer the effects of pervasive discrimination, much of it the result of unequal distribution of government services.

The MCRI campaign collected more than 500,000 signatures to put the issue before voters. Approval is pending before a state elections panel - and under challenge by a group that supports affirmative action - with a decision expected later this summer.
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Ending Affirmative Action Wouldn't Help Whites
Compiled by the DiversityInc staff
© 2005®
June 13, 2005

Analysis of today's diversity news from The Kansas City Star, The Wall Street Journal, the Houston Chronicle, The Princeton Packet, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more:

A new study on affirmative action at elite universities proves that dismantling the controversial system would reduce admissions among blacks and Latinos dramatically, The Princeton Packet reports. The end of race-based admissions would cause the acceptance rate for black candidates to drop from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent and the rate for Latinos to fall from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent, according to the study by Princeton University researchers.

Despite the marked decrease in the number of black and Latino admissions (not to mention the long-term impact of a possible leadership drain), whites would see little benefit. If race weren't a factor, acceptance rates for whites would increase by just 0.5 percent. The real beneficiaries would be Asian Americans. The acceptance rate for Asian Americans would climb from 18 percent to 23 percent, the study found.

The Princeton study also shows that legacy applicants, although they are predominantly white, make up such a small percentage of the total applicant pool that they have little impact on students of color.
You would expect the question to arise in the State which just came out of a Supreme Court decision on Affirmative Action in its premier university, Michigan University.

Would you be surprised however to learn that the State of Michigan is one of the States which still refuses to comply with the Voting Rights Act of 1965?

Specifically, the State of Michigan refuses to require its county and local governments to comply with the law.

This failure is true of 16 of the oritinal 23 States inviolation of the then new law.



Jim Chester

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