The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a voter initiative in Michigan that banned racial preferences in admissions to the public universities. The high court said that race-based admissions policies are constitutionally permissible in states that wish to utilize them. The April 22 decision concerned the question of whether and how voters may prohibit affirmative action programs.
Known as Proposal 2 in Michigan, the voter initiative was in response to a 2003 Supreme Court decision in Grutter v. Bollinger which upheld the use of race as one factor among many in law school admissions to ensure educational diversity at public institutions.
In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court had upheld that affirmative action taken by the University of Michigan Law School to ensure class diversity was constitutional. At that time, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor – who was named to the bench by President Ronald Reagan – wrote for the majority that the University of Michigan had a compelling interest in promoting diversity in a process that favored "underrepresented minority groups."
The constitutionality of Proposal 2, which the Supreme Court ruled upon today, had been challenged variously in federal courts. A ruling in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals was appealed to the high court by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. In its April 22 announcement of its finding, the Supreme Court statement said "that there is no authority...for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit to the voters the determination whether racial preferences may be considered in governmental decisions, in particular with respect to school decisions."
In an emailed reply to Spero News, University of Michigan spokesman Rick Fitzgerald wrote “The ruling has no effect on our policies, which already are consistent with Proposal 2 of 2006. We remain committed to the goal of a diverse, academically excellent, student body, and will continue to seek to achieve that goal in ways that comply with the law.”