by Beth Dalbey
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld Michigan’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions, delivering in its divided opinion a blow to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where dwindling minority enrollment has come under fire.
The ruling overturns a 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision,The Detroit Free Press reports.
"The plurality opinion stresses that the case is not about the constitutionality or the merits of race conscious admission policies in higher education. Rather, the question concerns whether and in what manner voters in a state may chose to prohibit consideration of such racial preferences," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority.
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and admissions director Ted Spencer told MLive/The Ann Arbor News that without affirmative action, the university can’t achieve a fully diverse student body.
Just 4.6 percent of undergraduates this year are black, compared with 8.9 pecent a decade ago and 7 percent in 2006.
Achieving diversity is “impossible to achieve diversity on a regular basis” without affirmative action, a leveling tool used in employment and other areas to achieve diversity, Spencer told the Ann Arbor newspaper.
At issue in the decision was Proposal 2, approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters in 2006. It amended the state Constitution and made it illegal for state entities to consider race in admissions and hiring.
The opposition group By Any Means Necessary mounted a campaign against the admissions portion of the ban mounted an opposition campaign shortly after voters approved it. They argued it violated the equal protection provision in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.A panel of three 6th Circuit judges found the ban unconstitutional, an opinion upheld in an 8-7 opinion by the full slate of judges in November 2012. That opinion conflicted with a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld a similar voter-backed ban on affirmative action in California, and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the Michigan case to settle the conflicting opinions.
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