Posted on December 12, 2006

Statement from Univ. of Michigan President Coleman

University of Michigan News Service, Dec. 11, 2006

The Following Statement Was Issued Today  (Dec. 11) By University Of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman:

Today the University of Michigan (including Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn), Michigan State and Wayne State universities filed a motion in federal court seeking a short-term delay in the implementation of Proposal 2 with respect to admissions and financial aid. We are requesting an injunction permitting us to complete this year’s admissions and financial aid cycles using the same standards in place when the process began earlier this year. This motion was filed in response to a lawsuit against our three universities by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) and others.

It would be extremely difficult, and unfair to prospective students, to change our admissions and financial aid processes in mid-stream. Our admissions process, including the awarding of financial aid, is a cohesive cycle that begins in the summer when the application is distributed to prospective students and counselors and ends the following May when all offers of admission have been extended and responded to by the students, and financial aid awards have been made and accepted. Students and counselors are now at varying stages in that cycle, and it would be nearly impossible to flip a switch on Dec. 23 and change our procedures abruptly. Students have relied on the information they were given months ago about this year’s admissions process, and we have already accepted applications and notified many students of our decision regarding their application.

We want to ensure that our process is consistent and fair throughout the entire admissions cycle. We owe this to prospective students and their families.

I have been clear in my statements over the past few weeks that the University of Michigan will obey the law. We recognize the voters’ decision, and we will comply with Proposal 2.

However, precisely what that means for our core operations is uncertain. This uncertainty is underscored by the executive order issued by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has instructed the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to investigate the potential impact of Proposal 2 and issue a report by February. We want to understand the outcome of that review as we consider what changes need to be made to our policies and programs.

We can expect these uncertainties to be clarified by the courts and by our experiences over time, as occurred in California after the passage of Proposition 209. At this time, the University of Michigan is not planning to initiate any additional legal actions. A lawsuit already has been filed against the University by BAMN, and the Pacific Legal Foundation has said it is also considering a lawsuit.

In the meantime, we will make our best attempt to interpret the language of Proposal 2, and continue our programs in a manner that both complies with the law and protects our diversity and our academic excellence. If challenged, the University of Michigan is prepared to defend our programs and our interpretation of the law.

It is important to emphasize that the passage of Proposal 2 does not prohibit public institutions from seeking diversity in our student body, staff and faculty. This educational goal is more important than ever before. We remain fully committed to keeping the doors of opportunity open for all.

The University strives first and foremost to be academically excellent. Diversity is an essential component of our excellence. The quality of our academic programs is enhanced by the rich and varied contributions of students and faculty who approach problems from different perspectives. Many top scholars are attracted to our community because they can study and conduct research with others who challenge their ways of looking at the world. The University of Michigan’s academic quality will suffer if we cannot recruit and retain faculty, staff and students from a wide range of backgrounds.

As I have noted, our efforts to defend diversity cannot be limited to the legal arena. An important part of our work in the months ahead will be to pursue every possible innovative means of building a broadly diverse community within the boundaries of the law. We don’t know yet whether we will be successful. The experience of other states causes us great concern, but the University of Michigan has been a leader with respect to diversity for many years and we have a dedicated and creative community. We are not afraid of tackling big challenges. We will try every means permitted by the law to achieve this important educational goal, because diversity is critical to our mission, to our excellence and to our future.

Contact: Julie Peterson

Phone: (734) 936-5190