In 2006, 58 percent of Michigan voters elected to pass a referendum known as Proposal 2. The result was the banning of affirmative action in all governmental — both state and local — hiring and contracting, including state college and university admissions.
According to InsideHigherEd.com, the University of Michigan saw the percentage of underrepresented minority students admitted to its freshman class drop from 12.6 percent the year before the referendum to 9.1 percent two years later.
A federal appeals court has now ruled that Michigan voters did not have the right to ban public colleges and universities from considering race and ethnicity in admissions.
In a two-to-one ruling released Friday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the ban “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities” and forced those that support diversity to “surmount more formidable obstacles to achieve their political objectives than other groups face.”
According to BET.com, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) filed the lawsuit in association with the ACLU and a combination of other civil-rights groups to support students, faculty and applicants to the University of Michigan.
John Payton, LDF’s president and director–counsel, said the opinion in Cantrell v. Granholm widens access to all who want a good education. “The Constitution requires that our democratic processes must be open and accessible to all citizens, regardless of their race,” Payton said in a statement. “Today’s decision ensures fairness for advocates of diversity and inclusion in higher education.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette made it clear Friday he planned to appeal the case and stated that the anti-affirmative action stance would remain intact pending appeal. The case is likely to lead all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, if justices are willing to hear the case.
The response from the Michigan university system was ambiguous. “The university is reviewing the possible implications of the court’s decision,” the system’s office said in a statement Friday, “and recognizes that there may be further legal steps as well.”