Friday, November 10, 2006
UM's Mary Sue Coleman Demands Racial Preferences Today, Racial Preferences Tomorrow, Racial Preferences Forever
Has University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman come unhinged? You'd think so from the speech she gave Wednesday. Upset over the landslide in favor of Proposal 2 (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative), she began her speech this way:
Diversity matters at Michigan, today more than any day in our history.
It matters today, and it will matter tomorrow. It will always matter because it is what makes us the great university we are.
I am deeply disappointed that the voters of our state have rejected affirmative action as a way to help build a community that is fair and equal for all.
But we will not be deterred in the all-important work of creating a diverse, welcoming campus. We will not be deterred.
I understand that in today's world, university presidents do not regard themselves as public servants and thus feel free to criticize the voters. But couldn't she at least be self aware enough to avoid using language that tracts George Wallace's famous "segregation today ... segregation tomorrow... segregation forever" speech? Wallace was, of course, engaged in the same sort of massive resistance to universal standards that Coleman now advocates.
Today, I have directed our General Counsel to consider every legal option available to us.
In the short term, we will seek confirmation from the courts to complete this year's admissions cycle under our current guidelines. We believe we have the right, indeed the obligation, to complete this process using our existing policies. It would be unfair and wrong for us to review studentsâ applications using two sets of criteria, and we will ask the courts to affirm that we may finish this process using the policies we currently have in place.
This is our first step, but only our first step.
Two sets of criteria? Is she kidding? The whole point of Proposal 2 is that UM has been using two sets (indeed more than two sets) of criteria for years. Proposal 2 puts an end to that by requiring UM to use universal standards applicable to all persons regardless of race or sex. I see no basis upon which the Michigan courts can grant a dispensation to UM for the first year. Proposal 2 is Michigan law. And no one whose admissions application has not yet been decided upon has relied to his or her detriment on preferential treatment. (A different case can be made for those who are currently receiving scholarship that were made available to them on account of their race or sex.)
Coleman also states:
I believe there are serious questions as to whether this initiative is lawful, particularly as it pertains to higher education. I have asked our attorneys for their full and undivided support in defending diversity at the University of Michigan. I will immediately begin exploring legal action concerning this initiative. But we will not limit our drive for diversity to the courts, because our conviction extends well beyond the legal landscape.
It is a cause that will take our full focus and energy as an institution, and I am ready to begin that work right now. We will find ways to overcome the handcuffs that Proposal 2 attempts to place on our reach for greater diversity.
Proposal 2 is modeled on California's Proposition 209, which was briefly bottled up in litigation after its passage in 1996. Ultimately, however, it was upheld. Indeed, the Ninth Circuit opinion held that the argument against Proposition 209 "teeters on the brink of incoherence." I'm confident that if a similar case is brought in Michigan, the ultimate result will be the same.
The difference is that the California lawsuit was brought by the ACLU on behalf of private parties against governmental entities and officials charged with enforcing the law. Here Coleman is proposing bringing a lawsuit on behalf of the University of Michigan. Since when does a state institution threaten to litigate against the state?
By the way, Michigan taxpayers might want to get an accounting of how much it has already cost them to finance UM's efforts to defend its race-based admissions policies in the courts before Coleman is authorized to go another round. I'll bet it's a lot.