Last week the Supreme Court of the United States heard the case Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, which challenges a 2006 amendment to Michigan’s constitution that banned race-based considerations in the admissions process at public universities.
The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that the Michigan amendment violates the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause. The decision confirmed what many already know: that it is in the public’s best interest to actively promote diversity on our college campuses.
Opponents of affirmative action in our state are led by Bill Schuette, Michigan’s attorney general. Schuette is also an Albion College Trustee. In a guest column for the Detroit Free Press, he argued that the Michigan amendment actually eliminates discrimination in the admissions process by making it race-neutral.
This shortsighted view denies the inherent value of racial diversity, and ignores a legacy of minority suppression in American history.
College students come from a variety of backgrounds, and it is important that our education celebrates these differences. Exposure to different perspectives and traditions is a valuable component of education because it helps students break down false stereotypes and preconceived notions.
For nearly two centuries, our nation did quite the opposite. Minorities were relegated to second-class status through discriminatory laws and attitudes. We still feel the effects of that prejudice today, as poverty and illiteracy occurs at much higher rates amongst minorities in America. Meanwhile, rates of educational achievement remain low.
As a private institution, Albion College is not affected by the Michigan amendment banning affirmative action. In fact, Albion has its own diversity plan, which commits our school to the development of a racially diverse campus. This policy has been in place since 2003.
“The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees charges faculty, staff and students to intentionally prepare students to belong to, participate and succeed in, and advance a global society,” the diversity plan states. “To this end, we commit ourselves as members of the Albion community to establish and maintain a diverse community.”
Schuette’s opposition to affirmative action contradicts the fundamental principles of our school’s diversity plan. This calls into question his role as a Trustee of Albion College. But Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action has much broader implications nationwide.
It makes sense for public universities to take racial background into account during the admissions process. An individual can receive scholarships based on athletic prowess, or because their father is an alumnus of an institution. So why should race be singled out and eliminated as a factor?
America’s public universities should actively encourage diversity in all facets of education, including the admissions process. This is made even more important when one considers that students are stepping out into an increasingly globalized society. Hopefully SCOTUS will recognize and preserve diversity in education.
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