Students Continue Affirmative Action Fight

Affirmative action protestersAffirmative action in college admissions is back on the national radar
as the Supreme Court is likely to hear a case involving the University
of Texas this year. But a high court ruling may not settle this divisive
debate.

Pictured: Demonstrators Sid Jacobo, left, and Jazel Flores protest in San Francisco on Feb. 13.

In the nine years since the justices said public
universities could consider race in admissions, four states have banned
the use of race by public universities, and Oklahoma voters will decide
this fall whether to join them. At least five other states don’t use
race, either.

Supporters of race-conscious
admissions policies are pinning their hopes on legal challenges to bans
in Michigan and California. Last month, a federal appeals court in San Francisco
considered arguments to overturn California’s 15-year-old ban. Three
busloads of students from Michigan plan to make their voices heard
Wednesday in Cincinnati, where a full panel of 17 federal appeals
judges is scheduled to review a three-member ruling last summer that
would strike down the ban in Michigan.

“Students
in Detroit, California and Texas are not going to sit back and let
affirmative action go away,” says Trabian Joe, 17, a high school senior
in Ferndale, Mich. “We have to stand up and fight.”

The
Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, a national non-profit group
that filed both challenges, argues that the bans have led to steep
declines in black, Latino and Native American representation at public
flagship universities in both states. From 2005 to 2010, the number of
under-represented minorities at Wayne State University‘s law and medical schools declined 49% and 52%, respectively, the group says. Last fall, minorities in the University of Michigan undergraduate schools constituted 10.5% of all freshmen, down from 12.7% in 2007.

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SOURCE: Mary Beth Marklein, USA TODAY