Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

April 23, 2014

Backers, opponents of Mich. ban react to ruling

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday upholding the state’s ban on using race as a factor in college admissions comes as the University of Michigan has been taking steps to reach out to minorities and make them feel welcome on campus.

Blacks made up just 4.6 percent of undergraduate students last fall, a figure that has dropped since voters in 2006 said race couldn’t be used as a factor in the selection process. Nearly eight years later, the Supreme Court said the Michigan constitutional amendment will stand.

“To take away the rights of minorities is a shocking decision,” said George Washington, a Detroit lawyer who challenged the law. “With this, and the voting rights decision last year, it’s clear the Supreme Court is undoing the rights gained by blacks and Latino people in the 1960s and 1970s.”

The university declined to make officials available for an interview. It released a statement from President Mary Sue Coleman, who said the school would use “every legal tool at our disposal to bring together a diverse student body.”

Asians make up 13 percent of undergraduates, well above the state’s Asian population, and Hispanics represent 4.4 percent.

Leaders of the Black Student Union have proposed ways to increase black enrollment and enhance the campus for minorities. They include lower housing costs for low-income students, better promotion of emergency financial assistance and improvements at a multicultural center.

The group wants black enrollment to be 10 percent, which is closer to the state’s 14 percent black population. The university last week said it’s had good conversations with the group and is upgrading the multicultural center while a site for an additional center is being explored.

The university also is making money available for transportation between the campus and surrounding communities when buses aren’t available.

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