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University of Michigan Still Using Affirmative Action, Despite Law Against It

Michigan voters passed a statewide ballot initiative in 2006 that prohibited universities from admitting students on the basis of their race. But UCLA Law Professor Richard Sander believes the University of Michigan is defying the law by secretly continuing its race-based admissions policy. Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia wrote about Sander’s findings:

Sander, a self-avowed liberal who opposes preferences because he believes they harm minorities, filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain Michigan’s admissions data for 2008. The university’s minority numbers had barely budged, something that was hard to explain, even with Descriptor Plus. The only way this could have happened was if the university was still explicitly using race, Sander’s regression analysis revealed.

This demonstrates that universities will use proxies, subterfuge and outright violation of the law in their quest for the “right” student mix. And it raises a troublesome question: Is there some way to get them to stop? There’s nothing foolproof, unfortunately. Going through courts and legislatures is an exercise in futility. For example, getting the University of Michigan to give up race requirements would require more time-consuming FOIA requests to gather information, then filing lawsuits (in which the university would outspend and out-lawyer its opponents). Meanwhile, the legislature would have to engage in an intrusive examination of the university’s books, inevitably inviting accusations of abrogating academic freedom.


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