Fed­eral judge de­lays start of Michi­gan’s af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion ban

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Eric Pfeif­fer

Af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion pro­po­nents on Dec. 20 won a tem­po­rary vic­tory in Michi­gan, where a fed­eral judge de­layed the date that a voter-ap­proved ban on racial pref­er­ences in state univer­si­ties would go into ef­fect.

The text of Pro­posal 2 called for the amend­ment to the state’s con­sti­tu­tion to go into ef­fect Dec. 23 but U.S. Dis­trict Judge David Law­son, an ap­pointee of Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, ap­proved a re­quest to de­lay its im­ple­men­ta­tion un­til July 1.

Three of the state’s top-tier univer­si­ties — the Univer­sity of Michi­gan, Michi­gan State Univer­sity and Wayne State Univer­sity — said they do not have the re­sources to change their ad­mis­sions guide­lines in time to com­ply with the new rules. The univer­si­ties will be able to use their ex­ist­ing rules, which have racial and other pref­er­ences, in their ad­mis­sion de­ci­sions for the 2007-08 aca­demic year.

Pro­posal 2, which passed with 58 per­cent of the vote Nov. 7, amended the state con­sti­tu­tion to ban any pub­licly fi­nanced pro­grams that sup­port pref­er­ences based on race, sex, sex­u­al­ity or na­tional ori­gin in Michi­gan’s pub­lic univer­sity sys­tem.

The agree­ment was reached among Demo­cratic Gov. Jen­nifer M. Gran­holm, Repub­li­can At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mike Cox, lawyers for the univer­si­ties and a pro-af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion group that chal­lenged the suc­cess­ful ref­er­en­dum.

Both op­po­nents and sup­port­ers of Pro­posal 2 claimed vic­tory af­ter the agree­ment was reached.

Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, a lawyer rep­re­sent­ing By Any Means Nec­es­sary, a group that sup­ports af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion poli­cies, de­scribed the de­ci­sion as “a good first step to­ward un­do­ing Pro­posal 2.”

How­ever Mr. Cox, who has promised to “vig­or­ously” de­fend the pro­posal in court, also called the de­ci­sion as a vic­tory be­cause of its spe­cific time­line for when the new rules must be im­ple­mented.

“This is a his­toric agree­ment,” Mr. Cox said in a state­ment. “It up­holds Pro­posal 2 and the will of the peo­ple.”

Oth­ers weren’t so ef­fu­sive in their praise for the agree­ment.

“I’m not sure that set­tle­ment will stand up,” said Ward Con­nerly, an af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion op­po­nent who helped write the ref­er­en­dum’s lan­guage. “Al­though I do have some sym­pa­thies for the univer­si­ties.”

Mr. Con­nerly, a for­mer mem­ber of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Board of Re­gents, was pre­vi­ously suc­cess­ful in re­vers­ing some of his state’s af­fir­ma­tive­ac­tion poli­cies.

“The use of race is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly out­dated,” he said. “I be­lieve we’re reach­ing the end of an era.”

Other af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion cases are be­ing con­sid­ered across the na­tion. In Wis­con­sin, a leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee is seek­ing to ban af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion prac­tices in state gov­ern­ment. The com­mit­tee heard tes­ti­mony from Mr. Con­nerly on Dec. 20. Mr. Con­nerly also has planned chal­lenges to af­fir­ma­tive-ac­tion laws in Ari­zona, Colorado, Mis­souri, Ne­braska, Ne­vada, Ore­gon, South Dakota, Utah and Wy­oming.

He says he ex­pects to get ref­er­en­dums on the bal­lot in about three to five of those states in time for the 2008 elec­tions.

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