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Supreme Court Upholds Michigan's Affirmative Action Ban For College Admissions


A state law banning affirmative action in public college admissions survived a Supreme Court challenge, Inside Higher Ed reported. The challenge was specifically directed towards a Michigan law passed in 2006, but, if successful, would have impacted a host of similar state laws around the country, including those in California and Washington State.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Samuel Alito ruled in favor of Michigan's current law because they did not feel its intent was racist and it provided alternative pathways to admit more minority students (rather than allowing colleges to make exceptions based on race).

"The question here, as in every case in which neutral state action is said to deny equal protection on account of race, is whether the challenged action reflects a racially discriminatory purpose. It plainly does not," the three judges said.

The justices explained that the purpose of the ruling was not to judge the constitutionality of affirmative action in college admissions, but to judge the constitutionality of a state's right to decide how best to tackle the issue of racial diversity in higher education. In the process, they determined that states were allowed to reject certain considerations when it comes to race.

"This case is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education. Here, the principle that the consideration of race in admissions is permissible when certain conditions are met is not being challenged," the justices wrote. "Rather, the question concerns whether, and in what manner, voters in the states may choose to prohibit the consideration of such racial preferences. Where states have prohibited race-conscious admissions policies, universities have responded by experimenting with a wide variety of alternative approaches. The decision by Michigan voters reflects the ongoing national dialogue about such practices." 

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