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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid