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 May 29, 2015 07:35 GMT

ECONOMY(equals)THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Commerce Department will release its report on first-quarter gross domestic product today.

A brutal winter, plunging investment by energy companies and a widening trade gap likely combined to shrink the U.S. economy at the start of the year. But the slump is expected to prove short-lived.

JPMORGAN LAYOFFS

NEW YORK (AP) -- JPMorgan Chase & Co. will cut about 5,000 jobs over the next year, as the bank closes branches and slims down its operations, The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing anonymous sources.

A representative for the New York bank declined to comment.

The job cuts will come from across the bank, but particularly from the consumer bank. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, at an investor conference this week, said that the average Chase branch would lose one employee -- mostly through attrition.

JPMorgan executives said in February that they expected to have 300 fewer branches over the next two years -- roughly 5 percent of its network -- because more customers were doing everyday banking transactions online or on their smartphones. The bank had 5,570 branches as of the first quarter.

JAPAN-ECONOMY

TOKYO (AP) -- Japan has reported that its jobless rate dropped to an 18-year low in April, but industrial production, inflation and household spending were muted as consumers kept purse strings tight.

The government said Friday that the unemployment rate was 3.3 percent in April, the lowest since April 1997, as the number of jobs to applicants rose to the highest level since 1992.

The core consumer price index, excluding volatile food prices, rose 0.4 percent, partly due to a fall in energy costs thanks to cheaper crude oil.

Aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan, combined with pressures pushing the U.S. dollar higher have pulled the Japanese yen to its weakest level against the dollar since 2002. Share prices have meanwhile surged to 15-year highs. But overall growth has remained sluggish.

DENNIS HASTERT-INDICTMENT

CHICAGO (AP) -- Federal prosecutors have announced bank-related charges against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, accusing the 73-year-old Illinois Republican of structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000. He's also accused of lying to the FBI.

The U.S. attorney's office in Chicago says each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

According to the indictment, from 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided it to a person identified only as Individual A.

The prosecutor's statement says "Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash" when questioned by the FBI last December.

As speaker, Hastert pushed President George W. Bush's legislative agenda, helping pass a massive tax cut and expanding Medicare prescription drug benefits.

He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker.

APPLE AUGMENTED

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Apple has bought a company that makes augmented-reality software, which adds information or images to real-world scenes when viewed through a special headset or even a smartphone camera.

It's the latest sign that major tech companies see big potential for products that let users view the world with extra features added by technology. Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are all working on augmented- or virtual-reality products. Augmented reality can add hand-drawn sketches, navigational directions, historic video or computer-generated, three-dimensional images to a real-world scene. Virtual reality can make viewers feel as if they are immersed in an artificial world.

Apple on Thursday confirmed the purchase of Munich-based Metaio for an undisclosed sum but did not say what it plans to do with the technology.

GOOGLE PHOTOS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Google is willing to store and organize all of the world's digital photos and videos for free.

The online photo service announced Thursday is the latest example of Google's desire to wrap its tentacles around virtually every part of people's lives.

Google will provide unlimited storage of all photos up to 16 megapixels and high-definition video up to 1080p.

The service, called Google Photos, will be available as an app on Android and Apple devices, and on a website, http://photos.google.com . It's a variation of the photo-management tool on Google Plus, a social networking service that has struggled to compete against Facebook since its 2011 debut.

Apple has a photo service that offers up to five gigabytes of storage for free. Yahoo's Flickr service offers one terabyte of storage for free.

OIL TRAINS-EMERGENCY ORDER

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) -- U.S. transportation officials are extending an order for railroads to notify states about shipments of hazardous crude oil shipments.

Emergency responders had raised worries over a new rule that did away with the requirement.

Trains hauling crude from the Bakken region of North Dakota and Montana have been involved in multiple fiery derailments in recent years, including a 2013 derailment that killed 47 people in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Thursday's action revives a 2014 order for railroads to give emergency officials oil train routing and volume information to better prepare for accidents.

The Transportation Department had moved this month to replace the mandate with a rule that would require states to request the information.

Agency spokeswoman Artealia Gilliard says federal regulators "heard loud and clear" the concerns raised by emergency responders.

advertisement
Washington Times
advertisement