By QUINCY HODGES
Capital News Service
LANSING — University of Michigan enrollment reached a record level this fall with 41,674 students, but the proportion of African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans decreased. Undergraduate admission figures show the percentage of students in those categories has dropped for four years straight.
Proponents of affirmative action blame the drop on a change in state law in 2006, when Proposal 2 passed. The constitutional amendment bans programs in public hiring, employment and education that give preferential treatment on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity or national origin.
At Central Michigan University, minority enrollment has stayed consistent in the last five years, averaging between 440 to 451 students, according to the registrar’s office.
Between fall 2006 and fall 2009, Western Michigan University has shown increased minority enrollment from 2,500 students to nearly 3,100 out of 25,000.
Michigan State University has shown a consistent enrollment of minority students between fall 2007 and fall 2009. At Wayne State University, minority enrollment has fluctuated in the last four years, but this year increased in all ethnic categories.
Eastern Michigan University has also seen an increase in its minority enrollment between fall 2006 and fall 2009.
Ted Spencer, the U-M associate vice provost and executive director of undergraduate admissions, said the university competes with other top schools nationwide that still have affirmative action in their programs and scholarships.
But minorities are applying to top schools that still have affirmative action and minority-based scholarships, Spencer said.
By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) is a national pro-affirmative action group that unsuccessfully opposed Proposal 2. BAMN’s national chair. Shanta Drivers, said, “The continuing fall in minority enrollment at Michigan is the direct and disastrous result of Proposal 2.
“With schools closings in Detroit and other urban centers, Proposal 2 is wiping out an entire generation of progress in steps towards equality in higher education,” she said.
“Proposal 2 allows the universities to take in account every form of educational inequality and injustice except racial inequality, which is by far the largest source of inequality in this country,” said George Washington, a lawyer for the United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund based in Detroit.
“For African-American, Latino and Native American students alone, Proposal 2 establishes a separate and unequal admission system,” Washington said.
But the state’s positions is that the affirmative action ban is constitutional.
“Proposal 2 does not violate the equal protection clause,” of the U.S. Constitution said Nick De Leeuw, a press officer for the Attorney General’s office.
“The people of Michigan spoke loud and clear when they voted to ban affirmative action, and Attorney Gen. Mike Cox is confident that the circuit court will not overturn the amendment,” De Leeuw said.
On. Nov. 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear challenges to Proposal 2 by BAMN, the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.