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Education The Courts

Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Ban On Affirmative Action In College Admissions 410

Posted by Soulskill
from the sensitive-subjects dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "The Supreme Court, by a vote of 6 — 2, has upheld a Michigan law banning the use of racial criteria in college admissions, finding that a lower court did not have the authority to set aside the measure approved in a 2006 referendum supported by 58% of voters. 'This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it,' wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy. 'Michigan voters used the initiative system to bypass public officials who were deemed not responsive to the concerns of a majority of the voters with respect to a policy of granting race-based preferences that raises difficult and delicate issues.' Kennedy's core opinion in the Michigan case seems to exalt referenda as a kind of direct democracy that the courts should be particularly reluctant to disturb. This might be a problem for same-sex marriage opponents if a future Supreme Court challenge involves a state law or constitutional amendment enacted by voters.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor reacted sharply in disagreeing with the decision in a 58 page dissent. 'For members of historically marginalized groups, which rely on the federal courts to protect their constitutional rights, the decision can hardly bolster hope for a vision of democracy (PDF) that preserves for all the right to participate meaningfully and equally in self-government.' The decision was the latest step in a legal and political battle over whether state colleges can use race and gender as a factor in choosing what students to admit. Michigan has said minority enrollment at its flagship university, the University of Michigan, has not gone down since the measure was passed. Civil rights groups dispute those figures and say other states have seen fewer African-American and Hispanic students attending highly competitive schools, especially in graduate level fields like law, medicine, and science."
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Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Ban On Affirmative Action In College Admissions

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:14AM (#46821863)
    We've made enormous strides in racial equality since this was originally needed. Time for it to go away, at least in Michigan. Other states may decide for themselves.
  • by Bartles (1198017) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:19AM (#46821903)
    ...seems to think it's ok to reject an Asian American applicant to make room for an African or Hispanic American. That is despicable.
  • Blatant Racism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Ignacio (1465) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:19AM (#46821907)
    Justice Sotomayor sounds like a huge racist since she doesn't seem to believe that blacks or hispanics are capable of getting admitted on their own merit.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:23AM (#46821931)

    Discrimination in college admissions still exists in the form of legacy admission practices, i.e. giving a *very* significant advantage to the children of alumni.

    There can be no level playing field as long as that exists.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:29AM (#46821987)

    Consider the enormous advantages that say, President Obama's daughters have over say, an Asian girl from a economically disadvantaged family. Yet the check marks that each would mark on a college application would result in the President's daughters getting racial preference.

    This is 2014. The idea that race is the predominant factor, or even a sizable factor, in opportunity is held only by those who wish to use race for their own agendas. The biggest factors now are family structure, and geography. If you grow up in rich suburbia to parents who care, you will have more opportunity than someone who grows up the ghetto to a single parent that is neglectful.

    If you want a level playing field, then look for socioeconomic factors, not race.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:37AM (#46822025)

    No, we just want the best to get into schools, not racists who can't spell veil. Protip, if you want a minority to get into a school ahead of a white kid even though the white kid worked harder and scored better, you're a racist.

  • by GlobalEcho (26240) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:39AM (#46822031)

    Wisest quote I saw from the pundit class:

    “I just keep wishing that the people who spend so much time trying to end racial preferences in higher ed would work to end the racial differences in the education we provide K-12”

          --Kati Haycock, Education Trust

  • by NotDrWho (3543773) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:45AM (#46822087)

    I agree. Normally I disagree with the Court on its obvious conservative bent, but I'm with them on this one. There is no excuse for factoring race into admissions for any university. This was true in 1950, and it's true today.

    And, as a practical matter, it only fuels resentment and suspicion on all sides of the equation, and it puts a permanent taint on those who many who have earned their way in, but who are perceived as having only gotten in by virtue of their race or ethnicity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:52AM (#46822149)

    No, the politically-correct crowd doesn't like to talk about Asians. They are very uncomfortable with the fact that one racial group refused to rest on their race and former discriminatory status as a crutch and excuse for the rest of time. The Asian experience in America flies in the face of their "former oppression excuses all shitty behavior today" philosophy and demonstrates that hard work and determination can indeed overcome the ills of the past. It really pisses them off that Asians don't sit around all day on their front porches drinking 40's and bitching about how whitey is holding them back.

  • by Andover Chick (1859494) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @08:55AM (#46822167)
    Gay marriage is about gaining the SAME right as the rest of the population. Affirmative action is about granting certain racial groups EXTRA rights over the rest of the population. These are very different considerations. Affirmative action was only seen as a temporary fix to correct historical imbalances, not in perpetuity. Why should the son of a wealthy African American get admitted to a top school just because he is black? Why should someone who is tall w/blue eyes and blonde hair get extra admission consideration just because his name is Gonzalez and he speaks Spanish? This is very different than granting two lesbians who've been together for 40 years the right to marry. The two are a bad comparison.
  • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:01AM (#46822207)

    You seem to have a certain idea of how affirmative action works that is different than mine. It varies, of course, but at its core affirmative action is hard to object to: the foundation is data collection.

    You simply collect data to see if you have a racial or other bias. If you do see a bias, you try to find out if it exists due to some variable that you control, or if the variable is out of your control. If the variable is within your control, you try to correct the problem on your end. That is the core of affirmative action, and is all that is required of an "equal opportunity employer".

    The controversial part comes when the variable is out of your control. Some advocate implementing something like quotas or other such measures which favor people who fall into "disadvantaged" buckets based on race, gender, or other criteria. I tend to agree with people who want to end this kind of system, but I absolutely support the data collection and active ("affirmative") attempts ("action") to correct organizational bias.

  • by Amtrak (2430376) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:03AM (#46822219)

    Having grown up in Michigan, particularly Detroit, I actually agree with you. Michigan is extremely racist on some issues. For example growing up it was very well known that if a hard working middle class black couple moved from inner city Detroit into your nice white suburb it wouldn't be long before half of the white population moved to the next town over or further away because "OH MY GOD MY NEIGHBORHOOD IS BEING INVADED! THE PROPERTY VALUES ARE GOING TO DROP" creating a self fulfilling prophecy and destroying what used to be good neighborhoods and the hopes of hard working Americans who lifted themselves out of the ghetto.

    This "White Flight" destroyed the Suburb I grew up in (Redford Township) and at the beginning for no reason at all. My parents still live there because well they paid their house off and didn't want to move so screw the market values. But I have seen how the area around them has decayed as more and more people left the town for Novi, Canton, and Livonia. To make matters worse, no one seems to learn from this at all either or rather they learn the wrong lesson. Livonia is now going through the same thing that Redford did and even the Grosse Pointes [wikipedia.org] are starting to see it. It's sad and pathetic.

    It's not all White Racism in that area either, I have been personally on the receiving end of resentment, hatred and harassment because of the color of my skin. I'm not bitter about it it's just the way things were. Detroit is a city that has never recovered from the race riots of the 60's and it is the real reason it has been falling apart. The seeds of this racism go all the way back to Henry Ford's hiring practices and it will probably be after I'm long dead before this ever improves.

    However, the supreme court still made the right decision in that they ruled that the federal government does not have the power to regulate a state's right to implement or outlaw affirmative action. If the people of Michigan want the law changed they shouldn't cry to the feds they should stand up and vote it down. Now if Michigan had made a law that said Asians can't enter the following colleges (Insert list of top universities) then they should have struck that down. But that isn't what affirmative action is.

    Affirmative action is giving preferential treatment to a "disadvantaged" group. I have failed to see how this is not a form of racism even if it is well intentioned. Is not classic racism giving the majority preferential treatment because we identify with them more? How is affirmative action different from that just not backwards in reason not result. The Michigan Universities should accept applicants based on merit alone end of story. Now lets get a law removing alumni status passed.

  • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:05AM (#46822241)

    It also makes teaching university classes very, very difficult -- when some of the students clearly don't have the background to be in university but are there anyway and in my class, how am I supposed to handle them? I could just assume that they have whatever background they really should have had, but I feel like if the university stuck 'em in my class there's some expectation I will do my best to help them. If I do that, though, I'm stuck explaining what a sine wave is to the affirmative action kid while the rest of the class is studying the effect of sample rate on the Nyquist cutoff. (It's a physics of music course.)

  • by Amtrak (2430376) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:10AM (#46822279)
    I got some data for you that you won't like. I come from a family with 5 kids. All 5 of us went to top high schools in the Detroit area. All 5 of us had over a 3.4 GPA and scored over at least 23 on our ACT's. Both my mother and father are University of Michigan Alumni with Bachelor and Master degrees. All 5 of us applied to U of M. Only one of us got in. Let me repeat that for you. Only one of us got accepted. It wasn't me either, my brother got in because he had the highest grades of all of us with a 3.7 GPA and a 29 on his ACT's. I was only a little behind him 3.6 GPA 26 ACT. Clearly alumni status didn't count that much.
  • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:14AM (#46822319)

    It's funny: you say "anti-white", but in California at least it is strongly anti-Asian. There was a referendum that turned out much worse for affirmative action out there than expected because Asian voters, who are normally reliably Democratic-leaning, broke ranks with the party because affirmative action winds up screwing them over the worst.

  • by asylumx (881307) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:21AM (#46822373)

    if you want a minority to get into a school ahead of a white kid even though the white kid worked harder and scored better

    Worked harder != scored better. Lots of people work very hard just to get a C, and lots of privileged kids don't work very hard at all and manage an A or at least a B. There's an important debate to be had about whether it's more important for a student to be a hard worker, or a to have higher scores.

    What I'm saying is that you need to challenge your implied assumption that just because the white kid had higher scores, he must have worked harder. I'm not saying these minority quotas are a good idea by any means, but definitely the selection process needs to include more than grades, and right now there's no great way to judge if the kid is a hard worker or not.

  • by Bartles (1198017) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:27AM (#46822419)
    I'm not and I never have been a member of the GOP. I am a liberal, through and through. Justice Sotomayor is not a liberal, you are not a liberal. Justice Sotomayor sees every social issue through the lens of race. There is no problem that cannot be solved by looking at a racial solution. After all she is the "Wise Latina", that was elevated to the supreme court. If she had just been a Wise Korean she never would have made it. You should really give up the asterisks. They don't make your arguments any stronger.
  • by swb (14022) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:29AM (#46822435)

    ...why does it always seem to be "African American affirmative action" in practice?

    It often strikes me that it really seems to be a program for African Americans and not specifically designed to promote broader racial diversity. It seems like most of the examples talked about in the news reporting on MIchigan refer to African American enrollment at UMich, never to the levels of Hispanic, Asian, Native American or other ethnic group enrollment.

    You can get into an epic pissing contest over which of these groups is more historically a victim of prejudice (my vote goes to Native Americans, genocide and ethnic cleansing trumps slavery by a small margin) but there seems to be a subtle bias in these programs towards African Americans. And I'm not saying it's not statistically valid by many measures (especially in Michigan).

    But nationally Hispanics outnumber African Americans and all other non-white races combined outnumber African Americans by almost 2:1.

    It just strikes me that there's a lot unsaid in this debate and probably some painful and unpleasant facts unspoken.

  • by serviscope_minor (664417) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:41AM (#46822525) Journal

    I'm stuck explaining what a sine wave is to the affirmative action kid while the rest of the class is studying the effect of sample rate on the Nyquist cutoff.

    Yep.

    Affermative action is not necessarily a bad thing: if there is a marked bias (e.g. one segment requires on avreage higher qalifications than another for the same place), affermative action can work by equalising things. Once things are equal then it really is equal opportunity (at that one point) and affermative action really can help to achieve that. If it goes too far, it de-equalises things in the opposite direction and that's unhelpful.

    I've been in your position (not as bad). The UK government is always pressuring the better universities to "take more state school pupils". The thing is, most teaching staff would love to take a talented person and bring out the best in them. But they start so far behind it involves considerable resources such as 1 on 1 tuition for a year to get them up to the same level as the rest of the intake. Naturally the government does not provide money to this.

    Very often lecturers and professors will put in their own personal time (i.e. uncompensated) to to this. That makes it particularly galling when the government (yet again) complains how universities are biased. Though in fairness to the current bunch, that's a labour complaint, not a conservative one.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:48AM (#46822635)

    Just because someone works harder doesn't mean they deserve to get ahead of someone who is more talented. If you're simply not very intelligent, but work really hard, would we put you in charge of things?

    Probably not.

  • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @09:55AM (#46822715)

    Here's a question though: Who would you say is disadvantaged?

    I ask because Princeton did a study and found that if they ended Affirmative Action, the number of black and latino students would drop significantly while the white students wouldn't materially increase. They did however estimate that four out of every five black and latino students would be replaced with an Asian student.

    Aren't Asian's supposed to be among those disadvantaged? Because presently Affirmative Action seems to disadvantage them even further.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @10:05AM (#46822847)

    foundation is data collection !? citation please?

    aa seems to me as illegitimate as collective punishment. the idea is to
    correct for *past* issues by disadvantaging or advantaging *present* people.
    the present advantage or disadvantage is purely on the basis of race,
    and is thus racist. this is the ends justifying the means.

  • by WileyC (188236) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @10:11AM (#46822895)

    Exactly! What the blurb fails to mention is that in states that have enacted 'colorblind' policies the GRADUATION rate for minorities has gone up. Yes, you see fewer freshman minority students at the Ivy League colleges but you see more minorities with diplomas... and isn't that the goal?

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @10:21AM (#46823013) Homepage
    Its not just asians, Most people here forget how bad the irish had it when they came here years ago. Hell we stil lget called drunks and no one bats an eye to that stereotype. 100 years ago it was not uncommon to see help wanted signs that said "irish need not apply" you dont see the irish out there fighting for affirmative action for the irish do you? You dont see the irish demanding reparations for the way our grandparents were treated when they got here do you?
  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @10:37AM (#46823195) Journal

    how is it that Asians are any less disadvantaged than Blacks or Latinos?

    There are less broken homes in the Asian community, and studies have consistently shown that children raised in two parent households have an advantage over children raised in single parent households, even after external factors like wealth are corrected for.

    Of course, if you point this fact out, you're called a racist. It doesn't matter if you're a stodgy old white guy [wikipedia.org] or a famous African-American comedian [wikipedia.org].

  • by ganjadude (952775) on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @11:06AM (#46823535) Homepage
    and the difference between the irish and other groups, we laugh at that. but you make a racial joke about some other groups and its a hate crime
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 23, 2014 @11:16AM (#46823681)

    It may be that slavery is like original sin and it can never be washed away [...]

    There is no race or nation that was not, at some point, enslaved by a other. Slavering being a sin that need to be washed is a retarded concept and you are an idiot for bringing that 'slavery' thing up. Fuck off.

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