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September 07, 2011 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-07

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2B September.

Magazine Editor:
Carolyn Klarecki
Editor in Chief:
Stephanie Steinberg
Managing Editor:
Nick Spar
Deputy Editors:
Stephen Ostrowski
Devon Thorsby
Elyana Twiggs
Maya Friedman
Hermes Risien
Sarah Squire
Copy Editors:
Hannah Poindexter

The Statement is The Michigan
Daily's news magazine, distributed
every Wednesday during the
academic year
To contact The Statement e-mail
Cover by Sarah Squire
Gather your hops!
ON OCT 16.
Contact klarecki@

Wednesday, September 7,21 /T E 3Saeet 7
COMMf The Diversity Debate
LIGA TION By Brienne Prusak
Regardless of your answer to the prior question, please indicate how you identify yourself. (Check all that apply.)
( American Indian or Alaska Native (including all Original Peoples of the Americas)

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Applicants must have US citizenship and the ability to
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For additional information and to apply, visit www.cia.gov

t's been 40 years since John F. Kennedy asked Ameri-
cans to "take affirmative action to ensure that appli-
cants are employed, and that employees are treated
during employment, without regard to their race, creed,
color, or national origin." That was 118 years after the first
known African American student was admitted to the Uni-
versity in1853.
On July 1, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals repealed
Proposal 2, returning Michigan colleges to their original
admissions method in which race and gender are consid-
ered in an effort to promote diversity in the student body.
Proposal 2 - an amendment to section 26 article 1 of the
state constitution- passed in 2006 with a 58 percent to
42 percent vote, proving residents' desire for all Michigan
public colleges and universities to discontinue preferential
treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national
origin. While the future of Proposal 2 is unclear, the repeal
begs the question: Is affirmative action still necessary in the
world today?
Affirmative action or race preference?
Prof. of Philosophy Carl Cohen, a leader of the Proposal
2 initiative, argued that affirmative action will always be a
positive thing. But what he opposes is the idea of preference
based on race and gender.
"Is affirmative action still necessary? Well, in the original
sense I think it is," Cohen said. "I think there's still reason,
for example, to have committees and boards to investigate
whether or not there's discriminatory conduct taking place.
There's still reason to examine efforts to determine wheth-
er or not qualifications for certain types of employment are
really relevant or are ways of weeding people out.
"What do we think of race preference? That's really the
issue. We all support affirmative action, or at least anyone
decent does. What we don't all support is preference."
He believes preference based on race is "unhealthy" for
minority groups because while individuals get breaks, the
group is "put under a cloud" by the assumption that many
group members are accepted into colleges or hired for
employment because of affirmative action and not because
they deserve to be. Many minorities who went to college
under affirmative action could have been accepted without
the policy, and the disadvantages of affirmative action are
far greater in the long run, Cohen said. .
"When you see blacks on our campus now, they didn't
get here with preference. You can't look down your nose at
minorities at Michigan now. You can't say, 'Oh, you know
how they got here.' Not now, not in Michigan. And I think
that's a great thing for the minorities. They don't have to
excuse themselves," he said.
One of the main arguments Cohen has against the imple-
mentation of affirmative action is that the United States

constitution clearly states the consideration of race - the
basis of affirmative action - is illegal.
"It's wrong to treat anyone different because of their race.
Race should not count, and it's wrong if it counts," he said.
Hidden disadvantages within race
John Matlock, associate vice provost and director of the
office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, said he sup-
ports affirmative action, especially since University admis-
sions also considers many aspects apart from race.
Affirmative action enables minorities to get an educa-
tion, which will help them get jobs - something he said he
believes is vital to the success of our country.
"College is a gateway to success, and if we keep people
from going to college, we really have an impact on the suc-
cess of individuals and also the future of the country," he
Matlock further explained that because minorities still
face prejudice in the U.S., and it's harder for them to get jobs,
affirmative action is necessary in order to level the playing
field. He added that an education increases the chances of
minorities to be hired, and their success creates a cyclical
"As we become more and more diverse as a society, we have
a strong commitment to educating everyone," Matlock said.
Professor Vincent Hutchings, a scholar of race relations,
said affirmative action is still necessary because many
minorities continue to be more disadvantaged than whites.
"There is no dispute that there is a vastly distinctive
racial environment for blacks and other minorities," Hutch-
ings said. "It is because of that, that policies such as affir-
mative action - whatever its flaws and whatever its virtues
- were designed to begin the process of trying to address
that longstanding inequality."
Many minorities have backgrounds, like living in lower
socioeconomic areas, that put them at a disadvantage. The
University does not consider these when reviewing applica-
tions so Hutchings maintains that affirmative action is nec-
essary to equate racial groups.
Creating diversity, creating education
Richard Lempert, a professor emeritus of law who stud-
ied affirmative action at the University Law School from
1970 to 1996, said the decision to appeal Proposal 2 is wise
and important to society because it's helpful for minorities,
especially in a world where a white person with a criminal
record is more likely to get a job than a black person with
no record.
He emphasized that the University doesn't admit
unqualified students, and affirmative action just helps cre-
ate diversity among the classes, concentrations and campus

communities. His argument echoes the June 23,2003 ruling
of the United States Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger,
which found that race should be taken into consideration
because diversity on campus is an educational benefit.
"I think of all the things the University has done dur-
ing my time there, there is little we can be prouder of than
its indications of the education of minorities, to bringing
minorities to what was primarily an all-white campus and
equippingthem for much better lives," Lempert said.
Now, minorities often gain admission based completely
on their qualifications, with no regard to race, Lempert said.
He added that affirmative action has helped the University
tremendously by improvingthe quality of discussions in the
classrooms because students with different backgrounds
see the world in different ways.
"The focus on diversity is particularly important in mak-
ing the U.S. and the University of Michigan truly a world-
class university where people from other countries want to
come and study, and it's always been an excellent university,
and it might be excellent without affirmative action, but it
would be different in character. It would not be as valuable
or, I think, as well functioning as it is," Lempert said.
Professor of Political Science and Economics Scott Page,
who studies the effect of diversity on institutions and soci-
ety, echoed these sentiments, saying in order to promote
research and knowledge worldwide, the University needs a
variety of people contributing their ideas and experiences.
Even without affirmative action, when admitting students,
the University considers what students will bring to the
table - including their individual life experiences, which
are often dependent on race.
The larger picture
Matlock said a lot of institutions look at the University
as a model because of its comprehensive commitment to
promote diversity, and many students choose to attend the '
University because of its reputation for diversity.
According to Matlock, exposure to all types of people is
necessary in the world we live in today. Once in the work-
force, graduates need to work with all types of people.
"We live in a world and a country that's becoming
increasingly diverse and will continue to do that well into
the future," Matlock said.
Page added that affirmative action allows students to bet-
ter understand "what the human experience is," and with
a predominantly global workforce, collaborating with all
kinds of people is a necessity.
"We're doing you a disservice if we say, 'Come to Michi-
gan and only learn to interact with the people who look
exactly like you," he said. "But if we say, 'Come to Michigan
and learn to interact with the people who are different from
See ACTION, Page 8B

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