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4A - Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

4A - Wednesday, October16, 2013 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

C4C Michinan4:3allp

Rock, Paper, Scissors

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109


Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board.
All other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
crF T O [ [1 E&AIL
Closing channels, adding burdens
The U.S. Supreme Court should favor invlusive governance
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments on Michi-
gan's Proposal 2, a ballot initiative passed in 2006 that outlawed
race and sex as a decision factor in public university admissions
and public-sector hiring. Since then, minority representation has plum-
meted at the University, and the law has been overturned in federal court.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a staunch opponent of affirma-
tive action, is now appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This case, Schuette v. Coalition to Defend
Affirmative Action, differs from the 2003
case Grutter v. Bollinger, in which the Court
upheld the University's use of race as a factor
in admissions decision. In part as a result of
that ruling, Proposal 2 was put on the ballot
for Michigan voters a few years later..Instead,
the argument in Schuette is over the ballot ini-
tiative itself and whether voters can eliminate
policies that are ruled constitutional.
Supporters of -affirmative-action argue that
Proposal 2 violates equal protection as it places
undue burden on minorities. Typically, protests
against policies like those regarding affirmative
action, legacy preference or other "special con-
siderations" for admission are brought before a
university's governing body, like the University's
Board of Regents. The ballot initiative is unfair
because those wishing to challenge it cannot go
to theBoard of Regents - the democratic institu-
tion set up particularly for this purpose. Instead,
they instead must amend the state constitution -
a difficult task by design. It would require a two-
thirds majority in both chambers of the state
legislature, another ballot initiative or a special
constitutional convention for an amendment to
pass. This places minorities at an unfair advan-
tage to change the policy, denying them their
equal treatment underthe law. Other groups like
veterans, parents or legacy students don't have to

go through this difficult process.
Furthermore, ballot initiatives were not
originally part of the democratic repertoire.
The Progressive party added the mechanism
in the twentieth century as a way to get ordi-
nary citizens more involved in directly chang-
ing and influencing government and to make
government more responsive. Recently, how-
ever, the mega-wealthy and special interest
groups have ,used referendums to influence
policy to their liking. Additionally, people who
voted for Proposal 2 - also called the "Michi-
gan Civil Rights Initiative" - may have been
misled by the title that appeared on the bal-
lot. The wording of the ballot initiative took
advantage of inadequately informed voters
who support civil rights - a dogma not fur-
thered by abolishing affirmative action.
Proposal 2 closes avenues to democratic
change to minorities. According to Judge R.
Guy Cole Jr. - the author of the opinion from
the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit
- "the majority may not manipulate the chan-
nels of change so as to place unique burdens on
issues of importance to them." For that reason,
the U.S. Supreme Court should strike down
this amendment. If any real solution is to be
found, minorities and marginalized communi-
ties must be free to represent their own inter-
ests in a waythat is equal and fair.

"What's strongest? The
rock, the paper or the
A group of
about 40 kids,
12, stood across
the street from
the U.S. Supreme
Court listening to
their tour guide JAMES
-a stocky, gray- BRENNAN
haired man with BRE__A__
a short beard.
"None of
them, right? Well, that's just like
In theory, this analogy is quite
apt. Each branch of government is
assigned no more power than any
of the others, able to overrule deci-
sions through checks and balances.
But as we all know, government is
hardly this balanced or simple. The
courts often overpower all other
branches, while some presidents
expand executive power beyond
constitutional limitations.
Like our system of governance,
affirmative action is far more complex
than we'd like it to be. Both sides of
the debate over Michigan's 2006 bal-
lot proposalthat banned most formsof
race and gender-conscious admissions
argued in front ofthe strongest branch
of government Tuesday. It was made
clear that neither the Court nor affir-
mative action are as easy to under-
stand as rock, paper, scissors.
"This is about the political
After speaking with Mike Stein-
berg, legal director of the American
Civil Liberties Union of Michigan,
it was made abundantly clear that
the usual debate about the merits of
race-conscious admissions wouldn't
be on the table. What was at stake,
according to Steinberg, was the right
of minorities to be treated equally
in the political process. Proposal 2
did not sinply outlaw an unpopular
policy by referendum, but it created
a separate and unequal process for
minorities to lobby for their interests.
The state has made it so any minority
group that wants to request the Uni-
versity Board of Regents to consider
race has to gather thousands of sig-
natures, run an entire statewide cam-
paign and overturn a ballot proposal.
Citing precedent in a similar case that

involved busing, Seattle v. Washington,
Steinberg believes that Proposal 2 cre-
ates two separate and unequal playing
fieldsbased on race.
Caroline Wong, national organizer
of By Any Means Necessary, gave me
similar arguments, asserting that Pro-
posal 2 is reminiscent of Jim Crow
ofoverturningaballot proposal demo-
cratically decided on by an entire state,
Wong cited an amicus brief by dozens
ofhistory professors drawing parallels'
to state laws designed to disenfran-
chise minorities. According to Wong,
stopping minorities from petitioning
universities is just another attempt to
subvert people of color without actu-
ally codifying racism - a violation of
the 14thamendment.
General mis-
understandings -
While Wong Affirmat
has demonstrat-
ed understanding is a comp
of the complex With
legal reasoningin
the fight against lot of mov
Proposal 2, her
arguments were -
a 'rarity among
BAMN protesters outside the court.
University students told me they
came to fight for race-conscious
admissions, greater diversity and
equality for people of color. When
asked why the Supreme Court
should exercise its ultimate power
and throw out a popular ballot ini-
tiative, they struggled, clinging to
simplistic reasons and failing to
move beyond a single frame of mind.
One University student cited
the fact that a majority white state
passed the law, only doing so to
maintain white privilege. Another
University student rattled off facts
about dropping minority enroll-
ment, but could only explain the
need to overturn Proposal'2 as a
matter of racial justice and whites
outvoting minorities. A Univer-
sity of California, Berkeley student
admitted she couldn't articulate
why Proposal 2 was unconstitution-
al, but simply reinstating affirmative
action was reason enough for her to
come protest. A national organizer,
speaking into a megaphone, accused
the majority of Supreme Court jus-
tices of being racist.
This dissonance isn't just on the
side of BAMN. Attorney General Bill

after Tuesday.
iVe action Maybe I didn't
e learn a whole lot
ilex policy because affir-
cons and a mative action is
an issue I vigor-
ving parts. ously follow and
defend. Maybe
I'm unim-
pressed because
I ran for student government with a
BAMN-sponsored party as a fresh-
man and worked for the ACLU.
Or maybe I'm just frustrated that
people still don't understand
affirmative action.
Since the first time I stood up
against my entire high school gov-
ernment class to argue in favor of
affirmative action, I have rarely
seen coherence in interpreting a
race-conscious admissions policy.
Proponents seem to only defend it
because they feel they're supposed
to, while opponents are blind to the
realities of racism.
Affirmative action is a complex
policy with pros, cons and a lot of
moving parts. It can't be opposed
simply because it "sounds" discrimi-
natory, and it can't be defended and
implemented because "diversity is
good" and "we want justice." Affirma-
tive action is a complicated, constantly
evolving issue - if you decide to take
a stance, understand that. While it
would be nice if affirmative action
were as simple and neat as a game of
rock, paper, scissors, it simply is not.
-James Brennan can be reached
at jmbthree@umich.edu

Schuette wrote an op-ed in the Detroit
Free Press on Sunday purely attack-
ing the merits of affirmative action,
never once mentioning Proposal 2
- let alone the issues at hand in the
case itself. Some opponents of affir-
mative action are also fully ignorant
to the state of race-based admissions
as a whole. Multiple Black students
explained that some white students
concluded they were only admitted
to Michigan because of affirmative
action, a sentiment I'e heard in per-
son plenty of times. Apparently, some
opponents of affirmative action don't
even realize that the University has
been barred from using race in admis-
sions for the better part of a decade.
I don't feel a great deal more


A temporary solution

WASHINGTON, D.C. - University President
Mary Sue Coleman once said, "Diversity is an old,
old wooden ship that was used during the Civil
War era." Oh, never mind - Iguess that was Ron
Burgundy in Anchorman.
Unlike Burgundy, Coleman and University
administrators seemingly understand the con-
cept and implications of diversity. As soon as stu-
dents begin their admissions applications,they're
bombarded with the importance of diversity at
the University. However, school demographics
paint a very different picture.
The enrollment of minority students has sig-
nificantly dropped since the implementation of
Proposal 2 - which banned race and gender-
based affirmative action in the state of Michi-
gan - in November 2006. Seven years ago, the
University was considered a frontrunner in
embracing diversity. The class of 2017 - current
freshmen - is 7.3 percent African American, 5.6
percent Hispanic and 1.1 percent Native Ameri-
can. Unfortunately, undergraduate enrollment
for people ofcolor has droppedby approximately
one-thirdinsixyears. 2012 statisticsindicatethat
African Americans constituted 4.6 percent of the
undergraduate population, Hispanics 4.3 percent
and Native Americans 0.17 percent.
Since Proposal 2 was enacted, the Coalition
to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration
and Immigrant Rights By Any Means Neces-
sary, the American Civil Liberties Union, the
National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People and many University profes-
sors and students have worked to overturn the
amendment in Michigan. BAMN immediately
filed a lawsuit against the ban, citing violation
of the 4th amendment.
In December 2006, a different case, Cantrgll
et. al v. Granholm, was brought forward by the
ACLU and NAACP Legal Defense and Education
fund on behalf of University students and faculty.
The Cantrellsiderelied heavily onthenotionthat
Proposal 2 created an unequal political process
where people could lobby the University's Board
of Regents to admit more students from their
interest group - athletes, legacies, students from
the Upper Peninsula, etc. - except for interest
groups concerned with race.
The two cases were consolidated early on due
to their similar positions about the constitution-
alityofMichigan's banonaffirmative action.Pro-
posal 2 was upheld in the district courts in 2008
and then overturned by the Sixth Circuit Court
of Appeals in 2011. The case was then appealed
to the U.S. Supreme Court and accepted the jus-
tices in March 2013. Oral arguments were heard
As the attorneys and justices settled in for
their hearing, four police officers lined the steps
anticipating protesters who had not yet arrived.
Three officers were stationed closer to the
Supreme Court doors while five others roamed
the perimeter. Loud whistles, chanting and a

megaphone announced the arrival of BAMN
members and other affirmative action support-
ers. They appeared in front of the court steps as
10 more police officers drove up on motorcycles.
Chants echoed throughout the area.
"They sayJim Crow, we say hell no!"
"Integration now, segregation never!"
"Black, Latino, Arab, Asian and.White, by any
means necessary we will fight!"
Several University students stood among the
crowd where the majority of protesters were
from minority populations. The demographics
were drastically different than Michigan class-
rooms where oftentimes a minority student may
be the only person of their community present.
In these situations, the burden of representation
becomesvery severe.
"It's discouraging. It's frustrating. It makes
you doubt yourself. You have to fight and try to
work so much harder," noted Education senior
Ariam Abraham. Abraham said she many times
took the lead ongroup projects becauseshe didn't
want to be associated with society-created ste-
LSA sophomores Lewis Graham and Chris
Ransburg, both Black, affirmed Abraham's
experiences. In a chemistry class of over 200,
Graham could count on one hand the Black
students in his class, creating pressure for
him to work harder and be better. Ransburg.
felt similarly: "I want to stand out. If I mess
up, it's not just me that's messing up."
It's indisputable that the University's
minority population has been dwindling
since 2006. As a result, minority students are
forced to represent their entire population
creating unfair burdens and obstacles. Diver-
sity doesn't just benefit minorities. It benefits
everybody through new understandings of
people who are different from you. So is affir-
mative action the answerto creating diversity
among college campuses?
It is regularly noted that the basis of the
problem lies not in college admissions but in
the continuing oppression of minority stu-
dents through education, geographic and
socio-economic means. "It's the mentality of
people that needs to change," added Adelia
Davis, anLSA freshman at the protest.
Unfortunately, these problems can't be
solved overnight. Affirmative action may not
be the ideal solution to create a more diverse
campus. There are obvious flaws. It often per-
petuates the idea that minority students are
only accepted due to their race. It ignores the
struggles of lower-income students. It doesn't
help retain minority students after they are
accepted. Affirmative action cannot solve any
of these problems. It is a temporary solution
for much larger issues. But while these issues
are being worked on, it will have to do.
Aarica Marsh is an LSA junior.

Kaan Avdan, Sharik Bashir, Barry Belmont, James Brennan, Eli Cahan, Eric Ferguson, Jordyn Kay, Jesse Klein,
Melanie Kruvelis, Maura Levine, Aarica Marsh, Megan McDonald, Adrienne Roberts,
Paul Sherman, Daniel Wang, Derek Wolfe
Student protest and aff. action

The recent We Are Michigan pro-
test and U.S. Supreme Court hearing
on affirmative action calls to mind the
longhistory ofstudentprotest on cam-
pus around racial diversity. Building
a more inclusive campus requires an
understanding of past anti-racist stu-
dent movements.
After Martin Luther King Jr.'s
assassination in 1968, 100 Black stu-
dents locked themselves in an admin-
istrative building to address low Black
enrollment. Their demands included
the appointment of Black administra-
tors and the establishment of a U-M
Martin, Luther King Jr. Scholarship.
The lock-in resulted in the establish-
ment of the scholarship and the insti-
tution of the Center of Afroamerican
and African Studies (CAAS, now the
departmentofAfroamericanand Afri-
can Studies) in 1970.
This takeover initiated student
movements that mobilized coalitions,
articulated explicit demands and uti-
lized direct-action protest strategies
to create a more inclusive campus for
students of color. In 1970, the student-
led Black Action Movement organized
a massive protest to draw attention to
racial disparities on campus. Students
fought for a Black Student Center,
tuition waivers, additional funding fdr
the MLKscholarship, andmostimpor-
tantly, a University commitment to a
10-percent goal of Black enrollment
within three years. The administra-
tion initially agreed to only the enroll-
ment goal. BAM responded by taking
hundreds of books off the shelves in
the library, interrupting classes, pick-
eting parking garages and blocking
State Street. These disruptive tactics
caused LSA attendance to drop by
75 percent. The strikers gained more
power by enlisting white students
and organized labor. The University
agreed to devote more resources to
achieving the 10-percent goal by the
cial support to CAAS.
The multiracial United Coalition
Against Racism renewed the fight for
minority rights in 1987. Two hundred
students blocked, Fleming Hall and

issued 12 explicit demands. These
focused on the unfulfilled promise
of minority enrollment, anti-racist
education and low numbers of Black
faculty. UCAR also demanded the
University close in recognition of
MLK Day; the University refused
to cancel classes to commemorate
the day until six years after it was
declared a national holiday. Most
significantly, students reasserted the
minority enrollment issue broached
in 1968. Black students remained a
mere 5 percent of the student body.
The University drafted the "Michi-
gan Mandate" - a comprehensive
plan to increase diversity on campus.
Last week's demonstration mirrors
the Mandate's core ideas: commitment
to diversity, representationofminority
groups and a pluralistic community.
The Mandate aimed for students of
color to represent atleast athird ofthe
student body by the endof the 1990s.
The University glowingly reported a
39 percent increase of students of color.
It even assured this growth would
lead to 14 percent Black enrollment by
1996, matching the state population at
the time. The University's confidence
in 1991 contrasts sharply with our
current climate. For example, Black
and Latina/o enrollment is under 5
percent. A partial explanation to the
rollback of minority enrollment is the
affirmative action debate of the last
decade. In the early 2000s, Michigan
nearly reached BAM's original goal
of 10 percent Black enrollment. How-
ever, Proposal 2 banned consideration
of race, sex and religion in University
admissions. Since the passage of Pro-
posal 2, the Black student population
has dropped from 6.5 percent in 2006
to 4.6 percent in 2012.
Still, widespread confusion about
the meaning and efficacy of affirma-
tive action remains. One obscuring
argument is that the dismantling of
affirmative action led to a more posi-
tive climate for students of color. Carl
Cohen, a University of Michigan pro-
fessor who spearheaded the Proposal
2 initiative, told the Daily in 2011:
"When you see Blacks on our campus

now, they didn't get here with prefer-
ence. You can't look down your nose
at minorities at Michigan now... And
I think that's a great thing for the
minorities. They don't have to excuse
themselves." The hostile response to
the recent viewpoint by LSA senior
Dan Green reveals the fallacy of this
argument. Commenters challenged
himto reveal his GPA,ACTscore and
tuition costs, after he wrote about
the discomfort he feels as a Black
Detroiter in Ann Arbor. Affirmative
action does not cause a hostile cam-
pus climate. It is the already-exist-
ing negative perceptions about the
inferiority of students of color. For
some, affirmative action becomes a
convenient scapegoat.
As the examples of BAM and
UCAR demonstrate, grassroots stu-
dent activism has driven efforts
to create a more diverse and sup-
portive campus. These actions have
been led by students of color, but
have always comprised white allies,
faculty/staff and others from the
campus community. They relied on
a combination of direct-action pro-
tests, explicit demands and disrup-
tion of normal campus operations.
These tactics succeeded in building
leverage for students who otherwise
had little decision-making power in
University policies. However, strug-
gling for a more inclusive university
should not fall squarely on the shoul-
ders of those underrepresented: The
University must take more than a
"wait and see" stance and facilitate
broader dialogue about these issues.
Student activists should build on the
rich history and lessons of student
protest on campus. And all students *
must educate themselves about how
privilege functions in university
life. Only through the combination
of strong student protest, education
and an active administration can we
begin to realize the aspirations of
this legacy of activism.
Garrett Felber and Austin McCoy
are PhD students in the History and
American Culture Departments.


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