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February 28, 2003 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

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ndesired fallout from the
diversity controversy is
what former U.S. Attorney
Saul Green calls "the horri-
ble, ugly [misconceptions] that per-
sons admitted [to the University of
Michigan] aren't qualified — or that
there are more qualified people who
should have been admitted in their
stead, which is not borne out at U-M.
"We have to fight the sense that we
weren't qualified and had no right to
that education," he adds.
"We African Americans come out
and perform with the same levels and
same degree of proficiency as white
grads of the law or undergrad pro-

U-M Professor Richard Lempert's
study concurs. "We found that
minority graduates earned as much as
white grads, were as satisfied with
their careers and did more work of a
public service sort," he says. "We also
found that members of each ethnic
group were more likely to serve
clients of their own ethnic group
than were members of any other eth-
nic group" — which often meant
serving otherwise unrepresentative
Plaintiff's attorney Terrance Pell of
the Center for Individual Rights in
Washington, D.C., argues, however,
that there is a significant disparity in
graduation rates between African-

American students
(61 percent over a
six year period) and
whites (82 percent).
Lempert again
"We don't know
how many of that
61 percent dropped
out or transferred or Lempert
left for financial rea-
sons or because they
found the campus an unfriendly
place. These figures need to be more
refined because the implication that
these students are not able to succeed
in their studies is not necessarily cor-

He adds that virtually all African-
American law students who go to U-
M graduate; the few who leave, sel-
dom do because of academic difficul-
ty. "Over 95 percent of minority
graduates pass the bar exam,"
Lempert says.
He believes the focus on race is
unduly high compared to other fac-
tors that can translate to points in
the U-M admission process.
"We don't know how many people
with legacy points drop out," he says.
"Nor is it clear if they have anything
to add to classroom dynamics like
minorities students do," says Lempert,
who once served as an admissions offi-
cer for the law school. ❑

they're trying to achieve, we are in support of nei-
African-American affirmative action students
sions policies, however, he says, "I don't know how
ther party," she says.
enrolled in the U-M law school. He became U.S.
to make it better. The university can reach out to
"The ADL endorses only race-neutral means to
attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and
high school students, use a lottery or socio-eco-
achieve diversity in higher education," Kellman
is now a partner in the Detroit-based law firm
nomic factors" — which, he admits, would only
says, adding that the idea of a university taking
Miller Canfield Paddock and Stone.
bring in more whites and not racial minorities.
the top 10 percent of all schools, as in California
Green is more bothered by the ways that
and Texas affirmative action programs, could work Americans so quickly dismiss the experience of
for the undergraduate program.
Who Gets Points?
the absolute quota system, which blacks suffered
In contrast, the ADL and the American Jewish
for more than 350 years. "Zero people were
At the center of the U-M admissions controversy
Committee "fall out on two different sides" of the
allowed in," he says.
is the 20 points awarded to African-American
issue, says Sharona Shapiro, executive director of
"It's very frustrating to hear people bring up
undergraduate applicants in a 150-point system.
the Metropolitan Detroit Chapter of the
using race-neutral techniques and not race when
The law school doesn't use this point system but
AJCommittee. "We don't consider this a quota
talking about affirmative action.
considers race as a factor, says U-M general coun-
case — unlike the Bakke case [that set aside 16
"First of all, they [race-neutral techniques]
sel, Marvin Krislov.
seats for minority students]," she says. "We filed
haven't been successful," says Green, who is presi-
Of the other 130 points on the 150-point scale,
an amicus brief opposing the University of
dent of the U-M Alumni Association and who has 80 revolve around academic
California quotas."
taught in the law school.
achievement. They include grade
This time, the AJCommittee filed a Friend of
"But what's really frustrating," he says, "is that
point average, college test scores
the Court brief on U-M's side along with such
race has been used against African Americans for
and quality high school programs,
groups as Hadassah, the Central Conference of
350 years — it took that long before they were
says Professor Lempert.
American Rabbis and the National Council of
admitted into universities.
Points are also given for leader-
Jewish Women. They join more than 60 other
"OK, now people say that was a mistake. But
ship, community service, athletic
organizations — including General Motors,
the idea to use race to remedy that is objection-
ability, special talents, under-repre-
Microsoft, labor unions and former Joint Chiefs
able — as if we should start with a blank slate.
sented geographic origin and legacy
of Staff— possibly the most briefs filed for one
"You can't use race for 350 years and suddenly
(for children of alumni).
side of a lawsuit since the 1989 abortion case of
stop and say, from now on, we write on a blank
The backlash against the system
Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services.
slate. The relief we get is minimal."
is evident when talking to some
Shapiro adds that sometimes the university
Shapiro of the local AJCommitee agrees with
students both anticipating applying and those in
needs to consider race as one factor among many
Green. "Disallowing the consideration of race as
the university.
when "looking to eliminate racism and promote
one factor would have the effect of eliminating
Jewish Academy of Metropolitan Detroit stu-
diversity on the campus."
meaningful diversity on American campuses," she
dent Nathan Lada, 17, of Bloomfield Hills says
More than 11 amicus briefs, including one sub-
he doesn't think it's fair that African-American
mitted by the Bush administration, were filed on the
But Professor Cohen, former chairman of the
students from good schools should get the 20
side of the plaintiff. The administation's brief sup-
American Civil Liberties Union in Washtenaw
points. "Higher points should go to students who
ports a race-neutral admissions policy, along with
County, says, U-M "is violating the Constitution
don't go to schools that have resources like
accepting the top l 0 percent of the high schools.
of the United States and has to show when using
JAM D ."
racial classification, they are serving a compelling
U-M student Daniel Birenbaum, 20, of Ann
state interest in a narrow way," he says. "If they
Arbor says another solution needs to be found.
African-American Frustration
don't, the university will lose this case."
U-M graduate Saul Green was one of the first
When asked how he would change the admis-




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