National Press Club

Michigan attorney general predicts Supreme Court will uphold his state's ban on racial preferences in education

October 14, 2013 | By Lorna Aldrich |

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, at an Oct. 14 National Press Club Newsmaker event, predicted that the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold Michigan's state constitutional amendment banning racial preferences in schools and universities.

Schuette's Oct. 15 arguments to the Court in the case, Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, will result in a ruling in early spring, he said.

The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit found the amendment unconstitutional in July 2011.

The amendment bans discrimination against and preferential treatment for any group or individual by Michigan schools, colleges and universities on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in employment, education and contracting, according to material circulated by Schuette. The amendment was passed by 58 percent of Michigan voters in 2006.

Schuette quoted Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts who said, "The way to stop discrimination is to stop discriminating."

"Diversity is important on every college and university campus in Michigan and across the country,."Schuette added.

The attorney general advocated achieving diversity by constitutional means. He urged admission standards to "broaden the pipeline" by considering factors such as graduation from an underperforming school and "personal obstacles."

For too long, urban schools have failed minority students, he said, adding that "This case is about how you have an educational revolution in America."

Schuette cited recruitment of athletic talent by National Collegiate Athletic Association colleges and universities as a possible model for recruiting academic talent from urban areas.

An inspired gift to a university would be one to support developing ways of recruiting students from failing schools in urban areas, he said.

Jennifer Gratz, the plaintiff in a 2003 case protesting undergraduate racial preferences in admissions at the University of Michigan, accompanied Scheutte at the Newsmaker. The Supreme Court ruled in her favor in that case, but allowed preferences to stand in a companion case involving admission to the law school.

Gratz campaigned for the Michigan amendment and similar amendments in other states, according to a biography published by XIV Foundation, which she founded in 2012.

"Government should not be allowed to pick winners and losers on the basis of skin color," she said.

The XIV Foundation exists "to teach the personal and societal advantages of fair and equal treatment regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or skin color," according to Gratz's biography.