Posted on April 23, 2014

Groups React to Supreme Court Decision Upholding Ban on Race-Based Admissions

Warren Richey, Christian Science Monitor, April 22, 2014

Reaction to the US Supreme Court decision on Tuesday upholding a Michigan constitutional ban on race-conscious affirmative action programs was as divided and heated as the underlying debate over racial preferences in college admissions.


Affirmative action supporters said it would now be more difficult for public universities in Michigan to build more diverse student populations.

“In a democracy, everyone should have equal access to the political process. The Court’s decision takes our nation’s commitment to equal treatment under the law a step backward,” Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a statement.

“This case is ultimately about whether students of color in Michigan are allowed to compete on the same playing field as all other students. Today, the Supreme Court said they are not,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who argued the case at the high court to overturn the Michigan ban.

“Proposal 2 unfairly keeps students from asking universities to consider race as one factor in admissions, but allows consideration of factors like legacy status, athletic achievement, and geography,” Mr. Rosenbaum said in a statement.


In rejecting that decision [of the appellate court], the high court said that state voters are entitled to determine issues of public policy by majority vote. Writing for the court, Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected suggestions that the ban stacks the political cards against minority groups.

“It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds,” Justice Kennedy wrote.

“Voters can decide they don’t want racial double standards in university admissions. That is the essence of the Supreme Court’s 6 to 2 decision,” said Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom, longtime affirmative action critics, in a statement.


Others saw the ruling as a major setback.

“Today’s decision turns back our nation’s commitment to racial equality and equal treatment under the law by sanctioning separate and unequal political processes that put undue burdens on students,” National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court has made it harder to advocate and, ultimately, achieve equal educational opportunity,” Roekel said.