The New York Times’ Editorial Board writes a vigorous piece in today’s paper that charges Prop 2 in Michigan as “impermissibly alter[ing] the political process that determines admissions policies in a way that places special burdens on racial minorities.”
Can a state’s citizens amend the state constitution to ban affirmative action programs in public universities, even if the Supreme Court has approved those programs? That is the question the court is facing this week in the case of Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.
The court last considered an affirmative action case out of Michigan in 2003, when it upheld the race-conscious admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School. In response to that ruling, opponents of affirmative action put on the ballot an amendment to the State Constitution banning any consideration of race or sex in public education. Michigan voters approved the amendment in 2006, and since then black undergraduate enrollment at the University of Michigan is down 33 percent.
Advocates of affirmative action sued the state on grounds that the amendment violates the United States Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. They argued that it impermissibly altered the political process that determines admissions policies in a way that places special burdens on racial minorities.
For instance, an applicant who wants alumni connections to be considered in admissions could ask the admissions committee to adopt that policy, or she could lobby the university administration or its popularly elected governing board. But an applicant who wants the university to consider race as a factor has only one path available: to work to pass a new amendment that repeals the anti-affirmative-action amendment — which a federal appeals court called “a lengthy, expensive and arduous process.”