A30 NEWS SPECIAL India Abroad May 2, 2014
The Supreme Court undermined the use of racial preferences in higher education by upholding a voter-approved Michigan law that banned affirmative action.
By a vote of 6 to 2, the court concluded
that it was not up to judges to overturn
a decision by Michigan voters as to who
gets into the state’s universities.
But the court clarified that it was not
deciding the question of whether affirmative action for admission was legal or not. It
was deciding on the legality of an action
taken by the voters.
It meant that the majority can make
laws against affirmative action and it
could encourage other states to pass
laws for that.
Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska,
New Hampshire, Oklahoma and
Washington have similar bans. Some
states that do not currently have bans.
The case is an offshoot of the admission policy of the University of Michigan
Law School, which considered race also
as a factor for admissions. It was challenged in the Supreme Court in the
Grutter vs Bollinger, case in 2003. The
court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the Michigan Law School.
But the state brought a constitutional
amendment in 2006 to override the
Supreme Court decision. The Michigan initiative, known as Proposal 2, was approved
by 58 percent voters and amended the state
Constitution to prohibit discrimination or
preferential treatment in public education,
government contracting and public
Groups favoring affirmative action sued
to block the part of the law concerning
Civil rights groups noted that the amendment had imposed burdens on racial
minorities in violation of the US
Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection and they challenged it in court.
In November 2012, a divided 6th US
Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati
ruled against the ban. Michigan’s
Republican attorney general Bill Schuette
went to the Supreme Court against this
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative
Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights
and Fight for Equality By Any Means
Necessary (BAMN) supported by several
organizations challenged it.
The case has major implications for
California, where Proposition 209 has been
in place since 1996, forbidding the consideration of race and gender in university
admissions, contracting and other public
programs throughout the state. Previous
legal challenges to Proposition 209 have
failed. Now the only recourse could be
through the ballot box, which is not easy.
California, joined by five states and the
District of Columbia, asked the Supreme
Court to invalidate Michigan’s law.
The University of California also opposed
the law in the court, noting that
Proposition 209 has dramatically
reduced the admissions rates for
Latino, black and Native American
students, particularly at highly
selective schools such as UC-Berkeley and UCLA.
The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions, met with mixed responses in the community.
“I was thrilled to read about the court’s decision
upholding the Michigan voter initiative that banned
racial preferences in admissions. The day has arrived
when true justice will prevail in America — equality for
all, discrimination against none,” said Dr Ved P
Chaudhary, president, Educators’ Society for Heritage of
India and also a leader of the 80-20 initiative.
Dr Chaudhury noted earlier that “to receive equal con-
sideration by elite colleges, Asian Americans must out-
perform Whites by 140 points, Hispanics by 280 points,
Blacks by 450 points in SAT (total points 1600).”
The Supreme Court’s decision, he added, “gets the
nation closer to Dr Martin Luther King’s dream of equal-
ity. As more states follow this path, Asian American stu-
dents will not experience blatant discrimination in
admissions, as they have endured for decades, in top
universities in the nation.”
Dr Chaudhary said 80-20 and other organizations like
the Global Organization of Persons of Indian Origin, the
National Federation of Indian Associations opposed
affirmative action, because many Asian students with
top marks were not getting admission in top universities
due to race consideration.
But Shanta Driver, the attorney who argued for minority political rights in the Supreme Court (Schutte vs
BAMN) denounced it.
“The Supreme Court decision upholding the ban on
affirmative action in Michigan is a racist decision,” she
said and called for a new civil rights movement. “It
makes it clear that this court intends to do nothing to
defend the right to equality in politics, opportunity,
rights, hopes and aspirations of its Latina/o, black,
Native American and other minority citizens.”
Driver, chairperson, By Any Means Necessary, added
that the decision allowed a white majority electorate,
state legislature, state courts and other political and legal
entities to pass laws that created
inequality in political rights and
access to higher education.
Manar Waheed, policy director,
South Asian Americans Leading
Together, also expressed his
reservations against the decision.
“It creates a separate and
unequal system for students of
color, including South Asians, to
access higher education in
Michigan,” he said “Michigan has
a high concentration of South
Asians, particularly a vibrant
Bangladeshi community in the
Detroit metropolitan area, so this
decision will likely have serious
consequences for our community locally.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters
that President Barack Obama, continues to believe that,
in the context of university admissions, ‘considering race,
along with other factors, can be appropriate in certain
Other groups, including Asian American Legal
Defense and Education Fund, noted that only some
Asians would benefit from race-neutral policy. Many
Asians from countries like Vietnam are educationally
and financially backward and they need affirmative
action to get in to better colleges.
‘The Supreme Court has turned its back on our nation’s
commitment to racial equality and equal treatment
under the law,’ said Winnie Kao of Asian Americans
Advancing Justice and the Asian Law Caucus’ litigation
‘Equal political process lies at the heart of our democracy because it is the doorway to preserve all other
rights. The court’s decision, however, shamefully codifies
an unequal political process for racial minorities.’
Supreme Court upholds ban on affirmative
action in Michigan
Shanta Driver, center, spokesperson,
By Any Means Necessary, said, the
Supreme Court decision upholding the
ban on affirmative action in Michigan was
a racist decision.