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On Michigan's Affirmative Action Ban

Updated: Thursday, May 1, 2014
On Michigan
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's been nine days now since the Supreme Court upheld Michigan's right to ban affirmative action in admissions to our colleges and universities.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says when laws are made by referendum--by popular vote--things can, indeed, get messy.

But he'll take messes created by voters over those created by lawmakers any day.

=====================

It began with a petition. A right that is spelled out in the first amendment of our constitution. Not the second or the fifth. The first. Its right up there with freedom of speech and religion.

And in this case, a group of Michigan residents thought it was unfair for the University of Michigan to base admissions on affirmative action.

So they petitioned to have the matter placed on the ballot in the election of 2006. It was called Proposal 2.

Sometimes those kinds of off-year elections can wind up with important matters decided upon by only a small percentage of our electorate.

We know from experience that when the selection of a President is not a part of the whole, voters tend to stay home by the thousands. And it is clearly a discouraging trend.

But in 2006 we had a Governor’s race going on--Jennifer Granholm against Dick DeVos--and the turnout was pretty big: 58 percent.

And a majority of  them not only returned Granholm to Lansing, but said they also wanted a say in how our state’s flagship university chose which students to attend and why.

The measure passed, and amended our state constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment in public education.

This time the offended party was white.

In a nutshell, no longer could U-of-M or Michigan State or any other state school use the color of one's skin or ethnicity to move a particular student ahead of a more qualified white student.

White students who'd challenged the admissions process said they were being discriminated against in the name of racial diversity. No longer.

Law by referendum. Is it a good idea?

There is little question our elite campuses will not be as diverse. Already there are fewer minority students on campus.

There is little question some minority students who don't come from certain homes and school systems and economic backgrounds will be denied opportunities to redress perceived racial disparities of the past.

If all laws were passed by philosophical deep thinkers, there might have been a way to save the best parts of both arguments. But that is not the case.

Of course there’s the point of view that all petitions are financed anyway by someone with deep pockets who can--with the sheer force of an economic hurricane--convince voters to do just about anything.

I don't know if that assessment is true, but it is certainly the prevailing popular view of our government.

Lobbyists are spending tons of money everyday in Washington and Lansing to press arguments for or against the issues of the day.

And it's no accident that Congress has an abysmal approval rating of between 8 and 14 percent, depending on which poll you choose.

In short, we don’t trust them. And we don’t really trust them to take on a matter so sensitive as affirmative action.

But the average voters is something else. However uninformed voters might sometimes seem to be, however emotional they can become, however selfish or magnanimous they might be, they usually do the right thing.

I feel a certain comfort when an important  matter lands in their hands.

But this ruling leaves our colleges and universities in a bind as we move forward. It's not going to be easy.

Affirmative action is now against the law. They’re going to have to call in armies of deep philosophical  thinkers to find ways to balance fair competition and merit with need.

Along the way, maybe one of them will also find a way to walk on water.

But the effort has to be made.

We’ve come too far in rectifying the steep disadvantages and imbalances created over hundreds of years to turn our backs on them now.

We are still all in this together.

We do need, in fact, each other.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on September 19, 2014 17:24 GMT

ALIBABA-IPO

NEW YORK (AP) -- Alibaba's stock is surging as the Chinese e-commerce powerhouse begins its first day trading as a public company.

The stock opened at $92.70 on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, up 36 percent from the initial $68 per share price set Thursday evening.

At that price the company would be worth $228.5 billion, more than companies such as Amazon, Ebay and even Facebook.

On Thursday, Alibaba and the investment bankers arranging the IPO settled on a price of $68 per share. The company and its early investors raised $21.8 billion in the offering, which valued Alibaba at $168 billion in one of the world's biggest ever initial public offerings.

But after a two-hour trading delay due to strong demand, it opened much higher than that price. If the stock closes at $92.70, the IPO will have raised close to $30 billion.

LEADING INDICATORS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A gauge designed to predict the economy's future health rose in August but at a much slower pace than in July.

The Conference Board says its index of leading indicators rose 0.2 percent in August, the seventh straight increase. But that was much slower than the revised 1.1 percent gain in July.

Conference Board economist Ken Goldstein says even with the slowdown in August, the index shows the economy is still gaining traction.

STATE UNEMPLOYMENT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Unemployment rates rose in nearly half of U.S. states in August, even as employers in two-thirds of the states added jobs.

The Labor Department says unemployment increased in 24 states, fell in 15 and was unchanged in 11. Hiring picked up in 35 states, while it fell in 15.

Unemployment rates can rise even when hiring increases if more people start looking for work and don't immediately find jobs. The figures suggest hiring was broad-based across most regions of the country last month, even as nationwide job gains in August were the weakest this year.

Georgia reported the nation's highest unemployment rate, at 8.1 percent, followed by Mississippi at 7.9 percent. That's the first time Georgia has had the highest rate since the Great Recession ended.

BRITAIN-SCOTLAND-ECONOMY

LONDON (AP) -- Businesses and investors have reacted with relief to Scotland's decision to reject independence from the United Kingdom.

The No campaign won 55 percent of the votes cast in Thursday's referendum. The 10-point victory margin was wider than expected -- most opinion polls on the eve of the vote showed a narrower 4-point victory.

British stocks responded positively to the news Friday, with the FTSE 100 index up 0.3 percent. Royal Bank of Scotland shares were up, and the bank, which is majority-owned by the U.K. government, said it was "business as usual" for its customers.

Some had warned that if Scotland left, uncertainty over the future value of the British pound and government debt would have rattled the U.K economy.

In the currency markets, the pound was solid too, rising to a two-year high against the euro.

EXXON-RUSSIA DRILLING

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Exxon Mobil says it will stop drilling an exploratory well in Russia's Kara Sea in compliance with U.S. sanctions against Russia over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine.

Exxon planned to drill the well between August and October. The latest round of sanctions called for the removal of U.S. workers on projects in the Russian Arctic by Sept. 26.

Exxon says it has received a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to wind down operations, but it is unclear whether the license will allow Exxon to stop drilling on the schedule it had already laid out. Exxon could not be immediately reached for comment.

PABST BREWING-SALE

NEW YORK (AP) -- The maker of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer is being sold to Russian company Oasis Beverages for an undisclosed sum.

In addition to its namesake beer, Pabst Brewing Co. makes Colt 45, Old Milwaukee and Schlitz. Pabst was acquired in 2010 by C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., which is known for investing in food brands.

Pabst Brewing, now based in Los Angeles, traces its roots back to 1844 in Milwaukee. Since purchasing it in 2010, Metropoulos has enlisted comedian Will Ferrell to market the company's beers. Pabst Blue Ribbon has also grown in popularity in part for its blue-collar appeal and cheap price.

Oasis is buying Pabst with TSG, an investment firm known for its work with consumer products companies. TSG Consumer Partners will take a minority stake in Pabst.

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