bobsheridan at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 13 06:54:45 PST 2006
Re: Michigan's adoption of the Ward Connerly inspired and backed Civil
Rights Initiative, this from Abigail /Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the
Manhattan Institute and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil
Rights, appearing in /the Wall Street Journal, Sunday, Opinion page.
*Michigan Prefers Equality*
Ward Connerly triumphs again.
*BY ABIGAIL THERNSTROM*
/Sunday, November 12, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST/
Ward Connerly has done it again: A striking 58% of Michigan voters gave
the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative a thumbs up; only three counties
voted against it.
The language of the MCRI closely tracks California's 1996 Proposition
209, also led by Mr. Connerly. It amends the Michigan Constitution to
"ban public institutions from using affirmative-action programs that
give preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their
race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment,
education or contracting purposes." The political and business
establishments, pressure groups like the AARP, labor-union leaders,
religious spokesmen, the professoriat, the major Detroit newspapers--all
were opposed to MCRI. But a substantial majority of ordinary voters were
thinking for themselves.
Patty Alspach was perhaps a typical supporter. A Democrat, she signed
the petition putting the proposition on the ballot. Meanwhile, opponents
loudly claimed that the measure was misleading, that voters were being
duped, that it should be tossed off the ballot. "I read it," replied Ms.
Alpach. "I understood it. I signed it. Now let me vote on it."
While Mr. Connerly is the father of the civil-rights initiatives, in
Michigan his role was that of mentor and fund-raiser; Jennifer Gratz,
MCRI's executive director, was in charge. She'd been the lead plaintiff
in /Gratz v. Bollinger/, one of the University of Michigan cases decided
by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2003. The Court agreed that
race-driven admissions policies were okay as long as they remained a bit
subtle--but no naked point system for the color of an applicant's skin.
The drive for the MCRI was launched immediately after the /Gratz/ and
/Grutter/ decisions were announced.
The initiative's opponents enjoyed a fivefold funding advantage, which
they used to broadcast a series of scary messages. The MCRI would be a
tragedy on the scale of 9/11; it would perpetuate a "culture of
inequity," and "endanger access to life-saving health-care services that
apply only to women"--the language of the initiative to the contrary
notwithstanding. Opponents even found basketball coaches to tout the
importance of seeking "diversity." In response to that last stunt, the
tiny band of full-time, young MCRI workers (five on the payroll) sent a
staffer--a /very/ short Korean immigrant, carrying a basketball and
dressed for the court--to the coaches' press conference where he stated
his eagerness to add "diversity" to the game.
Such episodes reveal the youthful idealism and commitment of Ms. Gratz,
24, and her staff, so reminiscent of the civil-rights movement in its
heyday. They were all 20-somethings, ready to sleep under their desks
and work nonstop. Despite the provocative ugliness of the MCRI's
opposition, they stuck with an unwavering, positive message--leavened
The ban on preferences will affect the state and local government, but
the University of Michigan will feel its impact most keenly. In the
closing pages of "The Shape of the River," William Bowen and Derrick
Bok's celebrated book on preferential admissions, the authors warn that,
if barred from using racial double-standards, institutions of higher
education will find another way to achieve the desired racial mix on
campuses. Straight out of the Bowen and Bok playbook, University of
Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman issued a statement on Tuesday night
(even before the final results were in): "Regardless of what happens
with Proposal 2, the University of Michigan will remain fully and
completely committed to diversity. I am determined to do whatever it
takes to sustain our excellence by recruiting and retaining a diverse
community of students, faculty and staff."
Brave words in the face of utter defeat. To be sure, Supreme Court
opinions can often be circumvented behind closed admissions-office
doors; that was certainly the story after the 1978 decision in
/University of California v. Bakke/, which (on paper) sanctioned the use
of racial identity only as a "plus" factor, one consideration among many
in admitting students. But state constitutional amendments are seriously
constraining, as the experience in California in the years since the
passage of 209 suggests. Racial double-standards in college admissions
has been markedly curtailed at the state's flagship schools.
Buried in a lengthy speech to University of Michigan students on
Wednesday, Ms. Coleman did say, "of course the University of Michigan
will comply with the laws of the state." It was far from her first
thought, however, and she has asked the school's attorneys "for their
full and undivided support in defending diversity." They'll waste their
time. As George Mason University law professor David Bernstein notes,
"the chances that the university would ultimately win such litigation
Ms. Coleman's other problem is that the much-vaunted "diversity" of the
university is something of a sham, as an editorial writer for the very
liberal Daily Michigan newspaper has suggested. The campus "is starkly
segregated. . . . We live in different student neighborhoods. We go to
different bars on different nights. We join in different student groups.
There are even separate Greek systems." While Ms. Coleman has made the
usual noises about building a "community" and "creating a diverse,
welcoming campus"--whom was she kidding? Apparently no one.
Dishonesty has always been the coin of the realm in this country when it
comes to race--from the days of the Declaration of Independence to
"separate but equal" and beyond. The use of race as a decisive factor in
admissions at selective colleges and universities is no exception.
The modern-day survival of racial preferences depends on sympathetic
judges willing to spin dubious arguments and ignore widely available
data on the pernicious impact of such preferences. But, this time, the
University of Michigan may find itself without judicial recourse. The
Supreme Court has never said that universities are constitutionally
obligated to institute "diversity" policies. Public universities are
funded by taxpayers. And those taxpayers have spoken.
/Ms. Thernstrom is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and vice
chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights./
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