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

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid