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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.

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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 October 23, 2014 07:29 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Economists forecast that weekly applications increased 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 280,000.

Also today, Freddie Mac will report on average mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan slid to 3.97 percent.

The Conference Board will release its index of leading indicators for September as well. In August, the index - a gauge designed to predict the economy's future health - rose but at a much slower pace than the previous month

On the business side: Southwest Airlines, United Continental, American Airlines, Union Pacific, 3M, Comcast, General Motors and Caterpillar will report quarterly financial results before the market opens.

Amazon and Microsoft will report earnings after the market closes.

APPLE PAY GLITCH

SAN JOSE, CALIF. (AP) -- Bank of America is apologizing for double-billing customers who made purchases using Apple's new mobile payments service.

A bank spokeswoman said Wednesday that the glitch involved about 1,000 transactions and that all duplicate charges will be refunded.

Some customers who used Apple Pay with debit cards issued by Bank of America have complained they were charged twice for a single transaction.

Apple says it was aware of the glitch, which it said affected "a very small number of Apple Pay users." The Cupertino, California-based company has not disclosed how many customers have used Apple Pay since it became available Monday.

HARVARD-STAPLES-POSTAL WORKERS

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- The American Postal Workers Union called upon Harvard University's president to oppose a deal between Staples Inc. and the U.S. Postal Service, or resign her seat on the office supply company's board.

Staples, based in Framingham, Massachusetts, began providing postal services at some of its stores last year, under a partnership with the financially-struggling Postal Service.

The union, which represents some 200,000 workers, took out a full-page ad Wednesday in the Harvard Crimson, the Ivy League school's student newspaper, saying President Drew Gilpin Faust should use her position on the board to push for an end to the deal or resign from the company board. The union says Staples is using poorly-trained workers to handle mail in a low-security environment.

Neither Faust nor Staples responded to requests for comments.

YAHOO-CEO AT CROSSROADS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Signaling her reign has reached a pivotal juncture, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is trying to convince restless shareholders that the long-struggling Internet company is heading in the right direction.

Mayer staunchly defended her strategy during a Tuesday presentation that addressed recent criticism leveled by activist investor Starboard Value LP, a New York hedge fund with a history of leading shareholder mutinies.

Starboard contends that since Mayer became CEO in July 2012, Yahoo has been wasting money on ill-advised acquisitions and a bloated payroll while mismanaging its lucrative stake in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba Group.

In her rebuttal, Mayer described the $1.6 billion spent her more than 30 acquisitions as smart investments that have made Yahoo more competitive in the increasingly important mobile-device market. She also highlighted cost-cutting measures.

And she insisted that Yahoo wouldn't have been in a position to make as much money as it has on its Alibaba holdings if she hadn't taken steps to ease "years of tension and hard feelings.

CHINA-ZUCKERBERG

Zuckerberg speaks Chinese; Beijing students cheer

BEIJING (AP) -- China may ban Facebook, but not its co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, and he entertained an audience of students with a 30-minute chat in his recently learned Mandarin Chinese at a prestigious Beijing university.

There was no explicit discussion of the ban or any Facebook effort to enter the China market during Wednesday's question-and-answer session at Tsinghua University.

But Facebook CEO Zuckerberg noted during his talk that the social media giant already helps some Chinese companies gain customers abroad. He cited computer maker Lenovo's ads on Facebook in India.

Zuckerberg married Chinese-American Priscilla Chan in 2012 and said he was learning Chinese.

His pronunciation was far from fluent, but he maintained the conversation for a half hour and the students responded with warm cheers for his effort and laughter at his humor.

CHINA-MANUFACTURING

BEIJING (AP) -- A gauge of the health of China's manufacturing industry inched higher in October but factory output was at a five-month low in a sign of slowing domestic and foreign demand.

HSBC said Thursday the preliminary version of an index based on a survey of factory purchasing managers rose to 50.4 from 50.2 in September. Figures above 50 on the 100-point scale indicate expansion.

HSBC's chief China economist says manufacturing likely stabilized in October but the "economy continues to show signs of insufficient effective demand."

Earlier this week, China reported economic growth in the third as growth based on trade and industrial investment runs out of steam.

WORLD SERIES-RATINGS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A World Series opener involving the San Francisco Giants set a record low TV rating for the second time in three seasons.

San Francisco's 7-1 win over Kansas City drew a 7.3 rating and 12.2 million viewers Tuesday night on Fox, according to fast national ratings by Nielsen Media Research.

That broke the previous low of a 7.6 rating and 12.2 million for the Giants' 8-3 victory over Detroit in 2012. San Francisco's 11.7 win over Texas in the 2010 opener got an 8.9 rating.

The rating for this year's opener began with a 6.9 from 8:05-8:30 p.m. EDT and peaked at 8.5 in the half hour starting at 9 p.m. With the Giants scoring three runs in the first inning and leading 5-0 by the fourth, the rating ended at 5.7 from 11:30-11:41 p.m.

Still, Fox said Wednesday it expects to win the prime-time night and have its best Tuesday night since February 2012.

Fox Deportes averaged 273,000 viewers, a record for Spanish-language World Series coverage.

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