Maintaining Racial Diversity in the Face of an Affirmative Action Ban

Blacks make up about 10 percent of the student body at the Wayne State University School of Law.  But maintaining racial diversity on the Detroit campus was put in serious jeopardy when this November Michigan voters overwhelmingly passed Proposal 2, which bans the use of race in admissions decisions at state universities. Up to this point the law school has considered the race of black applicants as a positive factor in the admissions process.

In response to Proposal 2 the law school at Wayne State University has revised its admissions procedures with an eye toward maintaining racial diversity within the confines of the new law. Now admissions officers will give an advantage to applicants who come from a lower socioeconomic background, attended a low-achieving high school, were the first in their family to go to college, or to those students who have overcome discrimination or oppression. The new policy also will favorably view applicants from the city of Detroit where nearly 80 percent of the residents are black.

The initial proposal for changing the admissions policy included a provision giving preferences for American Indians. But fearing litigation for singling out a particular group, the policy was cleverly changed to give preference to people of any race who have had experience living on a reservation.