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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 August 31, 2015 07:33 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) --There are no major economic reports scheduled for release today. But tomorrow, the Institute for Supply Management will issue its manufacturing index for August and the Commerce Department will report on construction spending for July.

Also tomorrow, automakers will release vehicle sales for August.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department will reveal second-quarter productivity data and the Commerce Department will report on factory orders for July. The Federal Reserve will also release its Beige Book.

CURRENCY REDESIGN

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. (AP) -- U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios plans to travel to the National Women's Hall of Fame in upstate New York later today to hear from the public about plans to put a woman on the $10 bill.

Rios is scheduled to be at a town hall meeting in Seneca Falls, where the original 1848 Women's Rights Convention was held.

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced in June that the $10 bill would be redesigned, with the portrait of Alexander Hamilton replaced with a woman. Lew says the agency has so far gotten more than a million responses to his request for comments.

Officials plan to make a decision by this fall, with the total redesign completed by 2020, the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY-PHILLIPS

UNDATED (AP) -- Billionaire investor Warren Buffett's company has amassed a stake worth nearly $4.5 billion in Phillips 66 more than a year after trading a chunk of its holding in the oil refiner for a chemical business investment.

A regulatory filing says Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has accumulated about 58 million shares, which amounts to more than 10 percent of the Houston company's stock.

In late 2013, the Omaha, Nebraska, company agreed to trade about $1.4 billion of its Phillips 66 stock for one of the refiner's businesses that makes additives to help crude oil flow through pipelines.

Many investors watch Berkshire Hathaway filings closely because they like to copy Buffett's moves given his successful record.

ITALY-ENI-GAS FIELD

ROME (AP) -- An Italian energy company Eni says it has discovered a "supergiant" natural gas field off Egypt.

The company, Eni, says it's the largest ever found in the Mediterranean Sea.

The discovery well is about 120 miles from the Egyptian coast, at a depth of nearly 4,800 feet.

Eni says after full development, the discovery will be able to ensure satisfying Egypt's natural gas demands "for decades."

GENERAL MILLS-CLIMATE CHANGE

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. (AP) -- General Mills says it's eager to do its part to fight climate change, so it's setting a goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent over the next decade -- from farm to fork to landfill.

The giant food company outlined its plans to The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement today.

General Mills says it will invest more than $100 million in energy efficiency and clean energy in its own operations. But its plan appears to stand apart from other companies' efforts by getting its suppliers and consumers into the act.

Those suppliers will be encouraged to do things like engage in more sustainable agriculture.

CEO Ken Powell says the company is acting because climate volatility will ultimately be bad for its business.

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