President Bush announced yesterday that his administration would file a brief in the Supreme Court supporting the lawsuit of white students against the University of Michigan's admission policy, which considers race, along with geography, test scores, grades, and a host of other personal achievements. Michigan's admissions policy was found constitutional by lower courts and is based on prior Supreme Court decisions regarding the use of race in admissions decisions.
The Michigan policy, like that used by many universities and graduate schools, recognizes the importance of diversity in the student body of a school, both to improve the learning environment and to ensure that the school is training leaders for all of society. The plan as described by Mary Sue Coleman, President of the University of Michigan, is as follows:
“In our undergraduate admissions system, fully 110 points out of 150 are given for academic factors including grades, test scores and curriculum. We only count 12 points for test scores, but that is because we value high school grades to a much greater extent—they can earn up to 80 points. We consider many other factors as well. Race is one of those, but a student who is socioeconomically disadvantaged also can earn 20 points (students cannot earn 20 points for both factors, however). Geographic diversity is also important, and a student from Michigan’s upper peninsula, for example, earns 16 points. We also consider leadership, service, and life experiences, among other elements.”
"Coming right after the Trent Lott debacle," Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor Smeal stated, "this decision clearly shows exactly where the Bush administration stands on issues of race—all spin and the same old southern strategy of courting white votes." Highlighting the administration's anti-civil rights, the President's announcement was made on Martin Luther King Jr.'s actual birthday. Smeal noted that several Republican Senators, Arlen Spector of Pennsylvannia, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, and Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine wrote a public letter to the President urging him to support the University of Michigan. In the end, however, the President ignored the moderates of his party.
Women have made gains in employment and education because of affirmative action. If we lose affirmation action on the basis of race, we will eventually lose it on the basis of gender. Remember the administration is also attacking Title IX, the law that guarantees women equality in federally funded education,” Smeal noted. A Bush-appointed commission currently reviewing Title IX is about to vote to reduce sports opportunities for girls.