In , Michigan voters took their own stand on the matter, in a referendum banning affirmative action at public colleges and universities. But Richard Sander, an economist and law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and one of the most prominent critics of affirmative action, said that even though small racial preferences may be justified, when there is a very large disparity between the entering credentials of white and black students, black students become demoralized by their inability to compete and are less likely to succeed.
What constitutes a critical mass, as the Supreme Court put it, of minority students at a place like Michigan remains subjective. As far as Robby Greenfield, a senior engineering student there and the former treasurer of the Black Student Union, is concerned, that number is still elusive. Greenfield, who is from Atlanta and whose parents are doctors.
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The battle over affirmative action has been waged across the country as Arizona, California, Florida, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington have also banned the practice. The results, according to a report by the Century Foundation , a public policy research group, have been mixed. Seven of 11 flagship universities in those states achieved as much or more diversity through strategies like guaranteeing admission for top graduates from each high school in the state, giving priority to low-income students, improving financial aid packages, stepping up recruitment and eliminating legacy preferences.
The main exceptions, the foundation said, were the three most elite universities: the University of Michigan; the University of California, Berkeley; and the University of California, Los Angeles. Given the long-term trend, Michigan officials are wary of calling their approach an unqualified success. They say one year is not enough to consider the matter closed, especially after years of sluggish minority enrollment.
They said that since the statewide ban, a panoply of recruitment and outreach efforts had fallen short. Using low income as a proxy for race also had not been effective, they said, because there are far more white students than black students in Michigan who come from low-income families and have the threshold test scores for admission. And they said that even now, the overall numbers of minority students are still lower than they were in 12 percent down for undergraduates and A major problem, the brief argued, is that other elite institutions draw on the same population of blacks and Hispanics that it wants to admit.
On this point, Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, agreed, but he said the problem was that just about everyone else has affirmative action, not that Michigan lacks it. Kahlenberg, who favors preferences for low-income students as a way of achieving diversity. So Michigan has unilaterally disarmed in selection of black and Latino students. Greenfield, the engineering student, scoffed at this logic, saying that in his personal experience, it was not true that the Ivy League and Michigan were accepting the same students.
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At Michigan, Dr. After the freshman class was offered admission, everyone from faculty members to deans to alumni to students made personal calls to encourage students to attend. In addition, the size of the freshman class was cut, by students to 6,, and no one was admitted off the waiting list, which favors higher-income — often white and Asian — students, who can afford to put down a deposit to reserve admission at another college while they wait.
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