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Public Statements

University of Michigan Admission Policy

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN ADMISSION POLICY

Ms. STABENOW. Madam President, I rise to express my deep disappointment at news reports today that indicate the Bush administration will try to overturn the admissions policy at the University of Michigan, in my great State. As many people know, the Supreme Court will soon hear a case that will decide the future of racial diversity in all institutions of higher education. The University of Michigan's admissions policy so far has been upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals as constitutional. Unfortunately, those who want to dismantle all admissions programs that consider race have taken this all the way to the Supreme Court.

It is important to note this case is not about racial quotas. Let me say that again. It is important to note this case is not about racial quotas. The University of Michigan does not have racial quotas for admission. I am opposed to racial quotas and this, in fact, has been the law of the land since the Supreme Court's decision in the Bakke case in 1978.

The University of Michigan's undergraduate admissions policy simply takes into account student diversity as one of many factors that are considered for admission. Incidentally, the most important factors for admission are the applicant's grade point average and test scores. Race is one factor of diversity, but it is not the only factor. I think this oftentimes is missed in the discussion about the university's policies and what affirmative action means. There are several other factors the university considers, including if the applicant comes from a socially or economically disadvantaged background, if the applicant is a white student from a majority minority high school, if the applicant comes from an underrepresented community, such as one of Michigan's many rural communities throughout northern Michigan, southern Michigan, up in the Upper Peninsula, or if the applicant is an athlete.

I think it is important to emphasize there is a category where there are certain points that are given and you can either be given points as an athlete or points for racial diversity or points for other kinds of categories—not all of them but one. Certainly, there are a number of factors that are considered in this process to create a balanced student body for the university.

The university considers a long list of factors, including if the applicant is a child of an alumni or if he or she has written a terrific essay. So there are many factors.

All of these factors help the University of Michigan select a diverse, well-rounded student body that is not just racially diverse but economically and geographically diverse as well.

Do we not believe that students from our small towns and rural communities add a unique and valuable perspective to our academic institutions? What about our students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds?

I know many Michigan families in the Upper Peninsula who lost their jobs because of the iron mines closing. Don't their children deserve an equal opportunity to attend one of the State's best academic institutions, and in fact I would argue one of the best in the Nation?

I might add that my son, Todd, is also an alumni of the great University of Michigan.

This debate is much greater than the admissions policy of one university. This is about whether we are going to have equal opportunity for all Americans. This is about whether we support policies that help provide the opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds to have a chance at the American dream regardless of where they live, regardless of their ethnic background and their religious background, or whether they are male or female, whether they are an athlete or not a good athlete—a wide variety of factors that go into making those decisions. And shouldn't all young people have the opportunity?

We already have policies called veterans preferences to help our veterans. I certainly am very supportive of doing that. We have set aside programs for women-owned and minority-owned small businesses and some categories for small businesses in general. There are certainly preferences that make good sense in public policy.

Shouldn't we also give a helping hand to all young people who want to go to college to be able to create the brainpower to drive the economic engine of this country with new innovations and new opportunities to continue forward an American economy that is as strong as it can be?

President Bush's decision to try to dismantle the University of Michigan's admissions policy comes at a very tough time for our Nation's minority community. Over the past month, the Republican Party has undergone a makeover—a change in leadership. But it would be very unfortunate if it is a change in style and not of substance.

Despite the White House's recent proclamation of issues that impact our minority community, I was very disheartened to see that they immediately renominated Charles Pickering to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals despite his controversial record on civil rights and his defense of someone convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial family.

There has been no commitment by this administration to support hate crimes legislation or legislation to prevent racial profiling. There has not been a commitment to fully fund election reform measures to ensure that minority voters are not dis en fran chised as they were in the 2000 election.

Unfortunately, this administration seems to be all talk and no action. We need to come together in a bipartisan way to act and not just to talk. On the one hand, the President talks about the importance of expanding opportunities to all Americans. And we all talk of that, and that certainly is something with which I agree, but the administration's policies do not back up this rhetoric.

There is still time for the President to file a brief in the Supreme Court case—one that supports the University of Michigan's admissions policy. I urge him to do so. Now is the time for us to come together and work together to make sure there is opportunity and access to our great institutions of higher learning in this country and that educational opportunities are available to every young person and to every American. I urge the President to reconsider the course that he appears to be taking and to join with us who understand the policy of the University of Michigan and to understand the importance of every young person having the opportunity to go to college.

I yield the floor.

Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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