Affirmative Action may not be completely dead in Michigan after all

    In a June 23, 2003 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School, allowing the University to continue using race as a “predominant” factor when considering new applicants. Not willing to concede defeat, those who fought to have the policy deemed unconstitutional then changed strategy, seeking an electoral solution. And, on November 7, 2006, Michiganders voted 58% to 42% in favor of legislation known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), or Proposal 2. The cleverly titled ballot initiative to amend the Michigan constitution (Who, after all, could possibly vote against civil rights?) aimed to stop the preferential treatment shown to minorities on the basis of race, color, sex, or religion, in the admissions process at the University of Michigan and other publicly funded institutions. Well, on Friday, there was another twist. The following clip comes from 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.

    “It’s a tremendous victory,” Detroit attorney George Washington said after a U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled in a 2-1 decision that Proposal 2 was unconstitutional.

    He represents a coalition that sued the governing boards of Michigan’s three largest universities — the University of Michigan and Michigan State and Wayne State universities — to overturn the proposal.

    Not so fast, countered state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who said he plans to ask the entire U.S. 6th Circuit to reconsider the ruling. In the meantime, Proposal 2 will remain the law, Schuette said…

    I’m not a constitutional scholar by any means, but it would seem to me that, given the current make-up of Supreme Court, it’s not likely that affirmative action, once all of this has played out, will once again be the law of the land in Michigan. But, you never know. It’s possible, if the movement to unseat Clarence Thomas on ethical grounds is successful, that there may be a chance… How ironic would that be if the removal of an African American Justice from the nations highest court is what brought affirmative action back?

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      44 Comments

      1. James Madison
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        I fear that the majority of the Roberts court will fail to apply the 14th Amendment’s clear lawyerly meaning to this case, and will instead act like the political ideologues that they are. This Court is a disgrace to the country and to our Constitution.

        Like Mark.Maynard.com, I am not a constitutional scholar, but I wrote most of the Constitution in 1787, back when I was living and am now a ghost.

      2. Posted July 3, 2011 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think you have to know much about the Constitution to surmise how the Roberts court would come down on an issue like this. I suppose that it’s good that it’s in the press, and that people are talking about it again, but I really don’t see this leading anywhere.

      3. EOS
        Posted July 3, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        Affirmative action is of little help when Universities such as Eastern Michigan report that less than 3% of African American males who are admitted actually graduate.

      4. Maria
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        What about U of M med and law schools, what are the stats?

      5. Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        Wow, is it surprising that EOS believes that black people just shouldn’t bother with school?

      6. EOS
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Didn’t say that at all. Are your reading comprehension skills that poor? Did you go to public schools?

      7. Dirtgrain
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        One does not have to graduate from college to benefit from college.

      8. Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I did go to public schools, fuck you very much.

        Besides, besides the previously established truth that you are a bigot of the worst kind, your reading skills are very poor.

        The article you quoted from explicitely stated that “2.6 percent of African American males in four-year programs and 11 percent who participated in five-year programs made it to graduation” and that those numbers were restricted only to those students who started at EMU as freshmen, which excludes transfer students.

        Granted, it’s bad, and deserving of action at all levels of public education. Your gross simplification, however, clouds the details and your attitude of hopelessness is not surprising coming from someone as hateful as yourself.

        I agree though, that it is pointless to have affirmative action programs to boost African American enrollment at EMU, particularly when it already has an open enrollment policy.

        Regardless, EMU should be veryproud of its diverse student body.

      9. Maria
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        EMU should work harder to graduate those who enroll, or else I tend to think it’s not doing it’s job of producing graduates…

      10. EOS
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

        It certainly was a waste of taxpayer money to try and educate Peter.

      11. Maria
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        Sticks and stones people.

      12. Posted July 4, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

        Here, for those who are interested, is a link to the Eastern Echo piece that EOS and Pete are quoting from. And here’s a clip:

        Data beginning in 2004 shows that at Eastern Michigan University the number of African American males graduating have plummeted drastically, causing officials to rethink educational programs in hopes of a future turnaround.

        According to Institutional Research and Information Management (IRIM) at EMU, 2.6 percent of African American males in four-year programs and 11 percent who participated in five-year programs made it to graduation.

        “It’s a shame that this is happening, especially at our campus,” Reggie Barnes, Director of Diversity and Community Involvement said.

        For the 2011 academic year, 51 African Americans at a graduate level were awarded degrees out of 502, and 151 at an undergraduate level, earned degrees out of 1,614—that’s 202 from a total of 2,116. Ten Hispanics in graduate programs and 39 in undergraduate programs earned degrees equating to a mere total of 49 students.

        The numbers reflect students who have never attended college prior to EMU, according to Anne Fox, a retention data analyst. Numbers reflecting those in a 6-year program, for example, started out in the 2004 cohort. At the end of the semester IRIM counts how many are still enrolled, producing graduation rates.

        “You’re talking about history when you look at these numbers,” Fox said. “You can’t look at graduation rates from this past year and directly link it to what was done for that same year. And even though they’re bad, we have every right to believe that could change over the years.”

        Lately, improvement have been seen.

        The most recent cohort (which began in 2009) for a one-year retention rate is 76.4 percent representing the entire school. African Americans contributed the most to that number and topped it, coming in at 76.9 percent.

        “They (retention rates for African Americans) are looking much more positive,” Fox said. “When I saw the numbers—I wouldn’t describe it as shock nor did I focus on the negatives—it was more of an affirmation that the change in programs is starting to work.”

        I had heard that retention rates at Eastern were pretty low across the board, but I wasn’t aware that such a small percentage of African American males entering the university actually graduated. I’d be curious to know what the average is for all incoming students. Regardless, though, I find it interesting that EOS chose to share this factoid now, in a thread about affirmative action. Like Pete, I’m tempted to think that he’s suggesting that African American males aren’t worthy of higher education.

      13. EMU Instructor
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

        EOS, as Peter said, there seems to be little value in connecting EMU with affirmative action as it certainly isn’t needed at EMU. But where did you come across that 3 percent figure?

        EOS/Maria, if you’d like some help understanding EMU’s generally low graduation rates, I would be glad to help. In my experience at EMU, I’ve had:

        -students who went to EMU for the fall semester so they could transfer to their first choice in winter
        -a lot of transfer students from people saving money by getting their start at area community colleges
        -students in the military, who took courses between tours
        -students in the military, who were called to active duty
        -a lot of first generation students, working adults with families taking one or two courses a semester, students caring for sick parents and their siblings, and many other challenges that prevent them completing their degrees in six years or less.

        “Graduation rates” look at how many incoming freshmen completed their degrees within six years at the school they first enrolled in. Schools where students are largely financed and supported by their parents and have no obligations outside of education, no surprise, have better graduation rates even if they have fewer graduates.

        At Eastern, we don’t measure success by graduation rates alone; we celebrate success at graduation where hundreds of people who don’t show up on those figures receive their diplomas.

        I challenge both of you to attend a commencement ceremony before commenting on how well Eastern is doing. At commencements, we tend to celebrate those earned their degrees by overcoming incredible obstacles, even (and especially) if it took them more than six years.

        The single mom, graduating summa cum laude while working and raising three kids, the veteran returning to excel in a business program after years of active duty, we tend to celebrate the loudest.

      14. EOS
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

        Or maybe I was implying that affirmative action in the admissions process at publicly funded universities is not achieving the expected outcomes. Maybe we should do a better job during the K-12 years so that those who are admitted can reasonably expect to complete a course of study. Maybe the answer is not that Eastern further dilute its academic standards to pump up its graduation rates.

      15. Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        What else could be EOS be suggesting?

      16. Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the note, Instructor. It’s appreciated.

        And, EOS, I like your idea about focusing on K-12 education, so that all kids get off to a good start, regardless of background, family income, etc. It seems a bit at odds, however, with you’re stated desire (in previous threads) to defund public education. Can you explain?

      17. EOS
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        No, I can’t explain a view I’ve never held. I can’t recall ever suggesting that public education be defunded. Merely that funds spent on public education be spent wisely.

      18. EMU Instructor
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Mark for the link.

        I greatly appreciate the work of the Eastern Echo, but, as it’s written and run by undergrads, it is only slightly more reliable than annarbor.com. Of the 2009-2010 EMU graduates, at least 562 (21 percent) were minorities (aliens and unknowns excluded).

        American Indian/Alaskan Native: 15
        Asian: 73
        Black/African American: 397
        Hispanic/Latino: 69
        Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander: 31
        Nonresident Alien: 77
        Race/Ethnicity Unknown: 207
        Two or More Races: 52
        White: 2,155

        Source: http://irim.emich.edu/index.php

        Again, at EMU you have to look at graduation to determine success.

      19. EOS
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

        Instructor,
        Of the 397 African American graduates, what percentage were male?

      20. Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        You see, it’s not all African Americans he’s got an issue with… just the males.

      21. EOS
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Well Mark, that’s because it’s the the relevant statistical parameter reported by Eastern’s Institutional Research and Information Management (IRIM).

      22. EMU Instructor
        Posted July 4, 2011 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        EOS, the irim reports I’m aware of break it down be gender and ethnicity, but not by both. EMU traditionally has a higher female enrollment. From the term referenced above, there were 1,742 women and 1,257. Right now, I can only offer anecdotal evidence from my experience at commencements, where black men seem proportionally well represented.

        This isn’t to discount the challenges many black males face upon entering college which is too long a discussion to have here. It is to challenge the claim that EMU is somehow failing its mission by low “graduation rates.”

      23. EOS
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 7:14 am | Permalink

        Just in case someone was mislead by the original post:

        Gratz v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 244 (2003),[1] was a United States Supreme Court case regarding the University of Michigan undergraduate affirmative action admissions policy. In a 6–3 decision announced on June 23, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled the university’s point system (which automatically awarded points to underrepresented ethnic groups) was too mechanistic in its use of race as a factor in admissions, and was therefore unconstitutional. Unlike the University of Michigan Law School admissions policy, which was addressed in Grutter and called for all applicants to be evaluated individually, officials in the undergraduate college used a point system based on such criteria as test scores, grades, recommendations, and activities. The University gave underrepresented ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, an automatic 20-point bonus on this scale, while a perfect SAT score was worth only 12 points. Under current law, even the Law School cannot use race as a “predominant” factor when considering new applicants. Race can only be considered as one of many factors.

      24. Maria
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

        I understand the EMU fills a role with nontraditional students, but how many graduate?What are the numbers from the other colleges in the state? If a certain subset are not getting through, what’s being done to remedy the situation?

      25. EOS
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 9:52 am | Permalink

        http://www.mlive.com/education/index.ssf/2010/10/michigan_university_graduation.html

      26. kjc
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        Glad an instructor commented on this post so I could actually get some insight into the issue.

      27. Eel
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        KJC, are you implying that what we get from EOS isn’t insight?

      28. EOS
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Just the truth.

      29. kjc
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        who’s EOS?

      30. EOS
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        Who cares?

      31. Maria
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        You challenge the claim EMU is not helping, and the point is not just that help is happening, it’s that people have to graduate, or should graduate, anyway, if they start to make the investment in educating themselves. It’s not just EMU that’s involved in this situation.

      32. Posted July 5, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Really, EMU should just be closed down. Ypsi doesn’t need a university, or anything else for that matter. Half the businesses on Washtenaw are already closed, why not EMU?

        Besides, as EOS will attest, EMU, as a magnet for African-American students is just inflating the numbers of needless and stupid black people in Washtenaw County.

        If people want an education, they can watch Glenn Beck or even go to Oral Roberts University.

        The free market will solve everything.

      33. EMU Instructor
        Posted July 5, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        Maria,

        It’s not my favorite source, but, as Forbes reports:

        Most of these students expect to earn a bachelor’s degree. Yet the sad truth is that six years from now, in 2015, the data suggest that barely half will have an earned a degree–and, out of the vast pool of students who do not attend elite institutions, only four in 10 will do so.

        That it takes students with little or no family support longer than six years to finish a degree is “sad.” It’s also inspirational.

        I have siblings. I may be biased, but they are very bright and fairly well bred. One recently graduated with honors from EMU. Our family is not high income. She went to Schoolcraft to save money. She will not appear on “graduation rates.”

        Another, went to UM and was, there, well above 3.0 GPA (I don’t have the exact number), then made, I think, a poor choice in mate. Pregnancy. Abuse. Divorce. Ongoing drama. She works full time, raises three kids, and has a 3.95 at EMU. It will take her a while to finish her degree, but she’ll finish it with honors. She will not appear on “graduation rates.”

        This past semester, I had a black male student who was incredibly bright and motivated. He craved his degree and had everything, intellectually, to excel in any institution. His mother had diabetes and the accompanying complications. When he missed class, he came to office hours. When he turned in work it was exceptional. But he was the eldest in his family. He was expected to take him mom to hospital, care for siblings while she was ill, work a job to both pay for his education and to support the family.

        He was in the 90th percentile when he was able to complete the work. But he came to half the classes and was able to turn in half the assignments. I failed him. (What do you do, as a person of integrity, when asked to care for your mom and siblings or take a test?) In the same semester, I passed many students with half his drive and ability.

        I deeply believe he’ll do well in life. His drive and integrity was humbling. I believe he’ll complete his degree, maybe at age 65, after being a successful entrepreneur. I doubt he’ll regret his prolonged higher education born of his sacrifice to his family.

        But, he will not appear on “graduation rates” data. I, for one, don’t give a flying fuck.

        After I entered his “failing” grade, I e-mailed him as much. I affirmed his ability, empathized with his reality, and failed him. Really, he’s one of the many smart, highly motivated students I’ve had. At EMU, there are easy fails, but also a lot of painful heart wrenching hard ones. I, like other EMU instructors, don’t take the granting of degrees lightly. We are, after all, intellectuals. We value education and standards. A student who can’t attend classes, do the work, can’t pass. Even if they should.

        Here’s where I get a bit, perhaps, overly combative. For an easy example, I know a lot of UM students and grads. This may be unfair, but the only obstacle many of them overcame to graduate was learning how to take a test stoned. George W. Bush types but with progressive politics.

        I’d be curious how a school like UM would deal with either of my siblings or my students. I’m curious how their “graduation rates” would change if a majority of students worked full time, had deep family issues, came from severe poverty, returned to school while suffering from PTSD, transferred from WCC and so on.

        I will not wave the EMU banner on every issue. But it has many damn fine instructors and many damn fine students. I’ll kill for that.

        As an aside, even though it took me eight years to complete my two year grad program (which counts as statistical failure), I’m teaching at UM this fall. I’ll let you know how the students measure up.

        Maybe I should require them to work two part time jobs and make weekly visits to a nursing home, to see.

      34. Posted July 6, 2011 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        It took me, in total, six years to complete my degree. I had a child, worked full time for my first two years at WCC until I got a better job that gave me some more flexible hours. Although I went to big, evil UM to finish, my teachers worked with me to make sure that I finished. I also would not be counted in the numbers that rightists are using against public institutions.

        I am disappointed that you failed your student. I would have given him an incomplete and made sure that he finished the course successfully. Not to judge you at all, but are EMU’s rules that narrow? It seems counterproductive in a school that hosts so many students that face challenges you describe.

      35. Kim
        Posted July 6, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        This new ruling is discussed in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education.

        http://chronicle.com/article/US-Appeals-Court-Overturns/128127/

      36. Maria
        Posted July 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

        EMU Instructor,
        I believe you, really, truly…the point is, what do we do to fix things? To fix things, the problems must be quantified, and with fidelity and dignity.

      37. kjc
        Posted July 6, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        “To fix things, the problems must be quantified…”

        wtf? that’s your response to the instructor’s post. if you want everything to be that simple, why even bother reading about complicated situations? your need for a “fix” is a problem.

      38. dragon
        Posted July 6, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Maria
        Solving problems with breezy abstractions. I’ll give it a try.

        The problem of lower graduation rates of black males should be addressed with an unostentatious and unvarying disposition toward chastity. Dignified chastity.

      39. EOS
        Posted July 6, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

        Maria,

        That the EMU instructor was unaware of the dismal graduation rates for African American males is an important aspect in identifying the problem to be fixed. Peter’s suggestion to the instructor about considering giving his student an incomplete and allowing more time to fulfill the requirements due to personal issues was a helpful suggestion as well. Many Universities provide peer tutoring and mentoring. What we shouldn’t do is assume affirmative action solves all societal injustice and ignore the present realities and difficulties many have in obtaining a decent education.

      40. dragon
        Posted July 6, 2011 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

        What we shouldn’t do is assume [affirmative action] solves all societal injustice and ignore the present realities and difficulties many have in obtaining a decent education.

        [affirmative action]=
        a)Jesus
        B)the free market
        c)cutting taxes

      41. EMU Instructor
        Posted July 7, 2011 at 12:36 am | Permalink

        Peter/all,

        What I think might be missing here is that my student, mentioned above, is not the exception in the freshman class. If you have a class of 25, how many should be granted “I’s” for lack of family support and/or financial means? How long should each be given to complete a course? Not to distract, but how should you compensate instructors who work for free with every prolonged incomplete?

        For the record, I talked very candidly with him about options, including dropping and an incomplete. He opted for the long shot pass. I respect that even though I, from experience,strongly advised against it. There are rather rigid dates for dropping and such. I’m fairly rigid in my belief that a grade reflects work done. I don’t mean to derail assumptions, but we, at EMU, expect a degree to reflect a certain level of attainment.

        In the same class, I had an Ethiopian immigrant who cleaned hotel rooms at night and studied during the day, a black student who was retaking the course, after graduating from EMU, to prepare for Ivy League law school (he received my first 100 percent; a testimony of what four years at EMU can do),a daughter of a biker gang family who wants to (and will be) be a veterinarian, a Livingston County stoner , a football jock who finally believed in his intellect, a kid whose cousin got shot by Dearborn police, and so on…

        Again, EOS, I am not unaware of the graduation rates. You, however, seem unaware of the graduations. My point, which now seems beside it, is that (excuse me while I shout) GRADUATION RATES MEASURE PEOPLE WHO BEGIN IN A SINGLE INSTITUTION AND FINISH WITHIN SIX YEARS.

        That is all they do.

        What I’ve meant to explain is that graduation rates are shit measures of actual education.

      42. Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

        Everything you’ve just described is exactly why institutions like EMU need to exist.

        I agree that most metrics are shit measures of actual education, particularly when regarding student with individual challenges.

        The benefits of open educational institutions like EMU cannot be measured in graduation rates, particularly when so many student transfer or go part time.

        Keep up the good work.

        Myself, I’m proud to have an EMU degree. No other school would have given me the same opportunity.

      43. Maria
        Posted July 7, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

        Yeah, it matters if people graduate. Redefine graduation as to when someone actually gets the degree.This is Michigan, and when it comes to education, there’s incredible sloppiness going on.
        I get pretty pissed about the indignity some people have about pointing out things can be done better. I got pretty pissed when my son’s friend at the age of 11, said he couldn’t read beyond first grade as he was going into fifth, and so he wouldn’t read the manga book my kid offered him,. because he said he couldn’t read, an African American kid in a local school, what the hell? Like he was the only kid the system “helped” as they didn’t actually help him. Like he was the only one in his class in that boat, (not) It happens, all the fucking time. That’s why charters have a leg up in this state. that’s why a smart kid ends up taking care of their family and taking for freaking ever to graduate, and time goes by, and that person still isn’t making the money and living the life they should be.

      44. EMU Instructor
        Posted July 7, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

        Peter/Maria, thanks, agreed.

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