Wednesday, January 24, 2007
The Election Day defeat of affirmative action in Michigan was only the first round of the political and legal fight over affirmative action in higher education. Just one day after 58 percent of Michigan voters chose to ban affirmative action, the University of Michigan administration responded with words of defiance.
Initially, the most outspoken defender of affirmative action was University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman. Addressing the crowd of thousands gathered on U-M’s large brick plaza on Nov. 8, Coleman spoke with a passion previously suppressed by the University’s obligation to political neutrality. “[W]e will not be deterred in the all-important work of creating a diverse, welcoming campus,” Coleman emphasized. She then went further: “[U-M] will find ways to overcome the handcuffs that Proposal 2 attempts to place on our reach for greater diversity.”
Her speech provoked national outrage. Conservative Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman said that Coleman’s speech “exudes contempt” for the will of the Michigan voters. Thomas Bray of the right-wing New York Sun called it “breathtakingly arrogant.” Back in Ann Arbor, the conservative biweekly Michigan Review‘s editor-in-chief lamented the dissolution of his faith in the university’s administration while derisively labeling the thousands gathered to witness Coleman’s rallying call as a “diversity cult.”
But, despite the rekindled hope of the “cultists,” little action was seen for weeks after Coleman’s speech. The only legal maneuvering, despite assurances that the University legal team was considering multiple possibilities, was conducted by the radical pro-affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). BAMN filed a lawsuit against the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, and Michigan State University, as well as Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (who opposed Proposal 2, but is legally bound to implement it.) The suit claimed that Prop 2 violated the Fourteenth Amendment (often referred to as the “equal protection clause”) and the Civil Rights Act.