Shelby: For years, affirmative action has allowed universities to give special consideration to minority students, but some states have actually banned colleges from taking race into account in the admissions process. Now the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a controversial affirmative action case. Scott Evans has the story.
Protestors: Must be equal!
Scott: Protestors gathered outside the Supreme Court yesterday as the justices took on an affirmative action case out of Michigan.
It began in 2003 when the Supreme Court refused to end affirmative action programs at the University of Michigan law school. Then, activists went for a second attempt in 2006 and were successful. Voters approved something called Proposal 2, amending the state’s constitution to prohibit admissions programs that give preferential treatment to, or discriminate against, people based on their race.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said voters wanted to take race out of decision- making.
Attorney General Bill Schuette: It’s an expression that in Michigan we think it’s wrong – fundamentally wrong – to treat people differently based on their race or the color of their skin.
Scott: Michigan is not alone. Five other states have similar bans outlawing the use of racial preferences.
Affirmative action was introduced by President Kennedy during the civil rights movement in the early 60s. With a focus on education and employment, policies were put into place to give access to minorities and women who wouldn’t have had access otherwise.
Supporters of affirmative action say Proposal 2 amounts to racial discrimination by using the political process against minorities. The federal appeals court agreed and struck down Proposal 2 saying it made it too hard for minorities to change policies that affect them.
Rosie Ceballo: What Prop 2 has done is allowed the majority to take away the policy that the university has for hearing everybody’s voice. So, essentially the will of the majority has silenced the minority.
Scott: Rosie Ceballo and her husband Matthew Countryman are professors at the University of Michigan. They say the ban has cut minority enrollment by a third and had a negative effect in the classroom.
Matt: As a group, they feel less a part of things, less able to participate in the give and take of the institution.
Scott: But those against affirmative action say the way to increase minority enrollment is to improve opportunities for people before they get to college, like at the high school or junior high school level. Supporters say that just doesn’t work. So if the court upholds Michigan’s ban, they say it could encourage states across the country to pass similar laws.
Shelby, back to you.
Shelby: Thanks for the update, Scott. A decision from the court is not expected until sometime next year.