News / USA

Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Affirmative Action

FILE - U.S. Supreme Court
FILE - U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a ban by the state of Michigan on the use of race as a factor in considering applicants for state colleges and universities.  

By a vote of six to two, the Supreme Court upheld the right of Michigan voters to prohibit public colleges and universities from taking race into account in their admissions decisions.

Michigan voters approved an amendment to their state constitution in 2006 barring race considerations as a factor in student admissions.

Affirmative action programs have long sought to help racial and ethnic minorities compete and gain acceptance to U.S. colleges and universities.  But over the decades they have also been the subject of fierce political debate.

Vanderbilt University law professor Suzanna Sherry says the initial legal fallout from the decision may be limited since the high court was not focused on the whether racial preferences may be valid, but on the right of voters to have their voices heard on the issue.

“What the court held is that the voters in Michigan are allowed to decide whether they want affirmative action or not, and that is really not a ruling on affirmative action.  It is a case about whether affirmative action is required and the answer is no, it is not required.  The people of Michigan can decide not to engage in it," said Sherry.

The decision drew a sharp dissent from one of the two Supreme Court justices in the minority on the case, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  She said judges should confront the racial inequality that exists in the United States, and not just sit back and wish it away.

The American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement criticizing the Supreme Court ruling, saying the Michigan law “unfairly” keeps students from asking universities to consider race as one factor in admissions.

But a black conservative group known as Project 21 said the decision moves the country closer to the colorblind principles advocated by the late civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.

California and Washington State have voter-approved laws banning affirmative action in education admissions and a few other states have also adopted laws or executive orders barring race as a consideration.

Bisi Okubadejo is an attorney in Maryland who represents colleges and universities in civil rights cases involving affirmative action.  She predicts a limited legal impact from the Supreme Court decision.

“It is likely that this action by the Supreme Court will bolster other groups that continue to file similar suits.  It is not representing a step forward with regard to the use of race, but taken in context I think that any negative effects on diversity and the use of race on campus has already occurred in the states where voters have spoken at the polls," said Okubadejo.

Vanderbilt expert Sherry says court decisions over the years have chipped away at the scope of affirmative action programs and she expects continued scrutiny at state and federal levels in the years to come.

“The constitutionality of affirmative action is much more precarious than it was 30 years ago.  And I would not be surprised if the next time the court focuses on affirmative action, I would not be surprised if it strikes them down," she said.

Supporters of affirmative action programs note enrollment among African-American and Hispanic students has dropped at the University of Michigan since the ban took effect.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More