Affirmative Action Ban Backlash: Black Enrollment Drops At University Of Michigan

September 30, 2013  |  

Affirmative action has long been a battle at the University of Michigan. Ten years ago, the school won a  U.S. Supreme Court fight to save affirmative action. But today, the state of Michigan is living without it — and black enrollment at the university has dropped, reports Bloomberg.

“Three years after the court allowed race-based admissions, Michigan voters blocked them at state schools through a ballot initiative,” reports Bloomberg. New data shows this decision has resulted in fewer black students. In fact, Black enrollment has dropped about 30 percent at the undergraduate and law schools.

But now the constitutionality of that 2006 ballot initiative, Proposal 2, is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, which holds arguments next month.

“We are, as a campus, as a university, committed to diversity, and we’ll just have to soldier on using less-effective tools,” said Mark Bernstein, one of eight elected regents who govern the university.

The Michigan battle is one of the Supreme Court’s top cases for the nine-month term that starts in October.  This isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has debated Michigan school policies. In 2003 the Supreme Court looked at the university’s law school and undergraduate admissions policies and ruled that admissions officers could use race to foster campus diversity as long as they did so as part of a holistic review of an applicant’s file. The decision, however, didn’t preclude states from barring racial preferences through their own laws.

Michigan is one of 10 states where race-conscious admissions are barred by law.

In most of those states, top universities have been able to maintain their racial diversity, Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Century Foundation, told Bloomberg. Some states have increased socioeconomic affirmative action while others base some admissions solely on class rank, giving slots to top students at mostly minority high schools.

“In 2006, the last full year in which race could be directly considered in admissions, blacks accounted for 6.4 percent of the freshman class, a number that excludes foreign students. Last year, black enrollment was 4.6 percent. Hispanic enrollment fell from 5.3 percent in 2006 to 3.9 percent in 2012,” reports Bloomberg.


Over at the University of Michigan Law School the numbers are even more depressing. In 2006, there were 25 black students, or 6.8 percent of its first-year class. In 2008, the number was 14 black students, or 3.9 percent and the school hasn’t topped 18 since then. Hispanic enrollment remains the same as it was in 2006.

Proposal 2 bans preferences on the basis of gender or race in public education, contracting and employment. The university admissions aspect of the law is the only part that is now before the Supreme Court.

Many affirmative action advocates in Michigan are not hopeful the Supreme Court decision will change anything. The Supreme Court has become more skeptical of affirmative action since upholding it in 2003.

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