Universities May Be Granted Delay On Affirmative Action Measure

AP, Dec. 19, 2006

Michigan’s three top-tier universities will be able to continue their current admissions and financial aid policies through the end of the current cycle, provided a federal judge signs off on a deal reached Monday.

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The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University had filed a motion with U.S. District Judge David Lawson seeking more time to implement some of those changes because they’ve already begun accepting new students for admission next fall.

The delay in implementing the new Proposal 2 rules would expire no later than July 1, and the delay would apply only to the universities’ current admissions and financial aid cycles. The deal was reached between lawyers for the universities, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Attorney General Mike Cox and a pro-affirmative action group that filed the original lawsuit challenging the new constitutional amendment.

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The universities want to complete this year’s admissions and financial aid cycles using the same standards in place since the process began earlier this year. Those cycles, which end in May 2007 or later, mostly affect students who would enter college in fall 2007.

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The amendment to the state constitution has been challenged in federal court by a pro-affirmative action group called By Any Means Necessary, which wants to block it from taking effect.

BAMN, which lost several court battles before voters approved the amendment last month, says the measure should be pre-empted by federal civil rights acts and would violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

BAMN lawyer George Washington said Monday’s agreement was “a good first step toward undoing Proposal 2.”

Cox argued the opposite, calling the deal a victory for Proposal 2. Cox said last week he would “vigorously” defend Michigan voters’ decision on the measure, but added he would consider an extension for universities provided it came with a firm expiration date.

“This is an historic agreement,” Cox said in a written statement about Monday’s deal. “It upholds Proposal 2 and the will of the people.”

Granholm, who is named as a defendant in the case along with the governing boards of the three universities, opposed the constitutional amendment. An attorney representing Granholm also signed Monday’s agreement.

The deal calls for the universities to drop their cross-claim filed in the suit last week. Cox said the agreement prohibits universities from filing any new lawsuits on the same basis.

But an attorney representing Proposal 2 supporters said that doesn’t mean the legal fight is over. Alan Foutz of the Pacific Legal Foundation said that based on the language of the settlement agreement, there may be nothing to prevent universities from filing some sort of legal challenge to Proposal 2 later.

Legal maneuverings connected to the case are expected to intensify Tuesday.

The NAACP’s Detroit branch and the Michigan branch of the American Civil Liberties Union are expected to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit seeking a declaratory ruling about Proposal 2’s meaning and scope. The two groups declined to discuss specifics of their upcoming case Monday.

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