Federal judge delays start of Michigan’s affirmative-action ban
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“The use of race is becoming increasingly outdated,” he said.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.