Appeals Court Strikes Down Michigan Ban on Race-Sensitive Admissions

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Michigan’s Proposal 2 which banned the consideration of race in admissions at state universities. The heavily divided court voted 8 to 7 to strike down the ban. The court found that the state law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because it made it more difficult to challenge rules against race-based admissions than it does to challenge other admission preferences.

In explaining the decision the majority opinion of the court stated:

“A student seeking to have her family’s alumni connections considered in her application to one of Michigan’s esteemed public universities could do one of four things to have the school adopt a legacy-conscious admissions policy: she could lobby the admissions committee, she could petition the leadership of the university, she could seek to influence the school’s governing board, or, as a measure of last resort, she could initiate a statewide campaign to alter the state’s constitution. The same cannot be said for a black student seeking the adoption of a constitutionally permissible race-conscious admissions policy. That student could do only one thing to effect change: she could attempt to amend the Michigan Constitution—a lengthy, expensive, and arduous process—to repeal the consequences of Proposal 2. The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said that he will appeal decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

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