Steve Chapman on Democracy and Affirmative Action


Alex Lee

The question of racial preferences in university admissions has bedeviled the nation for decades. In 2003, the Supreme Court finally issued a verdict that gave something to either side of the debate. In a case involving the University of Michigan, it said public universities may not adopt rigid formulas to help one minority group or another—but may consider race as one factor in admissions. The decision had the distinct feel of a compromise. So in 2006, opponents of racial preferences put a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to ban their use by Michigan's public universities. It passed with 58 percent of the vote. Democracy produced a result that fell within the guidelines established by the Supreme Court.

Or appeared to. The advocates of affirmative action said otherwise, writes Steve Chapman. In their view, it didn't matter that the court allowed states to ban racial preferences, and it didn't matter that preferences were banned by a free and fair vote of the people of Michigan.