The Continuing Legal Battle Over the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

The proposed Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, if approved by voters, would ban the use of race as a positive factor in the admissions process at the University of Michigan and other state-operated universities. Last fall the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the election board to certify the initiative for the ballot this coming November. Last month hundreds of college students from the University of Michigan attended the state's election board meeting to demonstrate their opposition. Shouting, "They say Jim Crow, we say hell no!" the demonstrators surged toward the front of the room, knocking over a table. Police were called in to restore order. After a recess, the election board voted along strict party lines not to certify the ballot position.

The judges on the Court of Appeals were not amused. Six days later they again ordered that the initiative be placed on the ballot, threatening to hold the board in contempt if it did not comply. On January 20 the election board finally approved the measure for the November ballot.

University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman strongly opposes the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

However, opponents of the referendum have not given up the legal fight. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, plans to challenge in the courts the wording used in the initiative. Shanta Driver of BAMN says that the use of the term "preferential treatment" in the initiative will unfairly prejudice voters. "It's a rallying cry for the segregationists and the far right wing," says Driver.

If legal efforts fail, BAMN plans an all-out education program to convince voters that the passage of the measure will not be in the interests of a majority of Michigan voters.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.