Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Michigan’s ban on public colleges and universities from considering race in the admission of students.
The justices voted 6-2 for the ruling in the case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action citing that the court does not have the authority to override the will of Michigan voters when it comes to affirmative action.
The ban was part of Proposal 2 approved by 58 percent of state voters in 2006. Proposal 2 amends the Michigan constitution to prohibit affirmative action in university admissions. Similar bans are in effect in Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.
The ruling overturns the U.S. Sixth Circuit’s 8-7 ruling in 2013 overturning the ban.
Voting to uphold the ban were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented while Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case because of previous work on affirmative action in the Justice Department.
“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” Kennedy wrote in the majority’s opinion, according to The Hill. “It is about who may resolve it.”
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hailed the justices decision.
“Our state constitution requires equal treatment in college admissions, because it is fundamentally wrong to treat people differently based on the color of their skin,” Detroit News quoted Schuette as saying in a press release. “A majority of Michigan voters embraced the ideal of equal treatment in 2006, and today their decision was affirmed.”
In her dissenting opinion, Sotomayor warned, “Without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups.” She also said that “race-sensitive admissions policies are necessary to achieve a diverse student body when race-neutral alternatives have failed.”
Mark Rosenbaum, the attorney who argued the case for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last October, said Proposal 2 unfairly keeps students from asking universities to consider race as one factor in admissions when factors like legacy status, athletic achievement and geography are considered. The ACLU claimed that the African-American population at the University of Michigan (U-M) at Ann Arbor has dropped 33 percent even though overall enrollment has increased 10 percent since Proposal 2 took effect.
Meanwhile, U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald assured that the university remains committed to legally achieving the goal of a diverse, academically excellent student body.