Are Race-Based Preferences in Mich. Coming Back?
|Race||Chance of UM Admit w/3.2 GPA, 1240 SAT||GPA @ UM, 2003-2004||Academic Probation at UM 2003-2004 (%)||Honors Program at UM, 2003-2005 (%)|
With a 58% to 42% overall margin, Michigan voters in 2006 overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative called "Proposal 2" that ended the traditional practice of racial double standards in college admissions at selective public universities, and required that all state-funded universities start practicing race-neutral admissions (and race-neutral hiring and contracting). By county, 80 out of 83 Michigan counties voted in favor of Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution with the following section:
In addition to the obvious issue of racial favoritism for admission to Michigan, the other data in the table provide evidence of another issue: the possibility that racial favoritism results in an "academic mismatch" for minority students at highly selective universities like Michigan. Black and Hispanic students at Michigan earn lower GPAs than whites or Asians, and are much more likely to be on academic probation, and much less likely to qualify for the Honors Program. Without racial double-standards in admissions, black and Hispanic students might have studied at a less-selective school like Michigan State, Wayne State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan or Western Michigan, all very highly regarded public universities in Michigan. But without racial preferences for admission at those less selective schools, it's very likely that minority students would have higher GPAs, be less likely to be on academic probation and more likely to qualify for an Honors Program compared to Michigan.
Although not shown in the chart, the huge differences in graduation rates by race also provide strong evidence of academic mismatch at Michigan. In 2006, 89% of white students at Michigan graduated within 6 years, compared to only 68% of black students, a huge 21% graduation rate race gap (source).
But there's been a new development in the fight for racial equality and equal opportunity under the law. According to the Detroit Free Press, "Affirmative action is back on the menu in Michigan, but for how long is anyone's guess. On Friday, a federal appeals court struck down Proposal 2, the 2006 Michigan constitutional amendment that banned affirmative action in college admissions, employment and contracting." Michigan's attorney general will be appealing the ruling, and the ban on race-based preferences will stand for now. It's possible this will end up being considered again by the Supreme Court, which previously ruled against the University of Michigan's undergraduate racial quota and point system that produced the outcomes in the table above.
Hopefully, the vision of racial equality and equal opportunity expressed by President John F. Kennedy will prevail in the courts: "Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races and national origins contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial discrimination."