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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sixth Circuit Declines to Delay Affirmative-Action Ban -- What's the U.S. News Impact?

Via How Appealing came news of this decision issued by the Sixth Circuit on December 29.  As everyone knows, Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 in November, which prohibits race and gender preferences in public education, employment, and contracting in that state.  Universities, which had already begun admitting students based in part on race for the class to enter in the fall of 2007, asked for a six-month delay in the implementation of the law.  The court denied the request for a delay, finding no reason authorizing a federal court to interfere in the operation of this state law, but stated that state courts might be in a position to permit such a delay.

I am curious as to what will be the effect on these three law schools' -- the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, and Wayne State University -- U.S. News rankings, assuming that race and gender are actually removed from consideration in admissions and faculty hiring.  (I'm also curious as to whether that effect will actually obtain.)  I think it's fairly safe to predict that the academic credentials of the students in these schools will improve overall -- the whole point of the schools' arguments in Grutter, Gratz, and this suit is to permit the schools to admit minorities whose credentials would not get them admitted were it not for their race.  On the other hand, to the extent that U.S. News considers only median students' test scores and GPAs, that may have allowed for affirmative action in the bottom 49% not to result in the negative impact that could be expected from a consideration of the mean credentials, so there might not be much of a change at all in the statistics that U.S. News reports.  And on the other side of the ledger, whatever advantages there are to racial diversity will not be as plentiful at these schools.  Will the effect be markedly different for the three law schools, which operate at different "tiers" and, I would imagine, serve somewhat different missions?

Posted by Michael Dimino on December 31, 2006 at 09:04 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Tracked on Jan 4, 2007 1:51:47 PM


I had somewhat the same experience as Rick at Michigan Law School about thirty years ago, although there were more African-American students in my class than in his. Although a number dropped out after the first year (as did a larger number of other students), those who stayed and graduated have had good careers, and at least one an extremely successful career.

However, I do not recall any of the African-American students making a "per se" contribution to diversity in the classroom as one extremely witty, articulate and outspoken African-American did in some of my undergrad classes--he drew on his own experiences, and it enriched the class discussion and enlightened all of us. I do not recall that in law school.

On the main issue, I concur with MoTown that Wayne State and Michigan will figure out how to admit the number of African-Americans that they want to admit.

Posted by: David | Jan 5, 2007 11:35:53 AM


This is where we differ. You see proposal 2 as infringing on African Americans' individual rights. I see it as protecting every citizens individual rights.

Posted by: MoTown | Jan 4, 2007 10:10:12 PM

I went to a law school with very few minority students. Most dropped out after the first year, another was on academic probation, and the other did not bring any "diversity" to table. What he did bring to the table was that he was smart, witty, a great debater, and brought good ideas to many class discussions. That did make him stand out, but it had nothing to do with his race.

Posted by: rick | Jan 4, 2007 2:04:28 PM

Michigan State University is a private law school that is affiliated with the public university. I doubt there will much change in their admission policy.

Posted by: Spartan | Jan 3, 2007 6:31:43 PM

What you call "the will of the voters" others might call "a faction ... who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens ...." James Madison, Federalist #10.

Consider what Madison might have to say about ballot proposals that affect individual rights.

Posted by: FlintTown | Jan 3, 2007 6:09:49 PM

I don’t know about UM or MSU, but I don’t expect racial diversity at WSU to change much in the coming years. The faculty at Wayne recently adopted a new set of admissions criteria designed to comply with proposal 2. The new criteria take a host of new things into account such as “geographic factors” (i.e., a candidate from Detroit is favored over non-Detroit residents, knowing that most Detroit residents are African American), “past discrimination” factors (i.e., candidates who have faced and overcome discrimination in the past will be given extra consideration), etc.

These new admissions criteria have not one thing to do with the candidates ability to succeed in law school, and everything to do with being clever in trying to undermine the effects of proposal 2. Regardless of your political feelings on affirmative action, it just seems wrong for a public institution to deliberately try to undermine the will of the voters. Perhaps other Michigan institutions will be more honest in their attempts to comply with proposal 2.

Posted by: MoTown | Dec 31, 2006 9:58:22 AM

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