Alma Mater Wrong About Racial Quotas


I went to school at the University of Michigan, and I have fond memories of both Ann Arbor, the quintessential college town where it's located, and of the school itself -- an institution that consistently ranks in the top 10, both academically and on the gridiron.

And then there are those football helmets -- the coolest helmets in all of organized football. Not to mention "The Victors," the best fight song ever written. And the Wolverine, the meanest mascot anywhere.

But the University of Michigan is wrong about the issue that has splashed the school all over the front pages of newspapers around the world -- affirmative action.

The issue surfaced when some white students challenged the school's policy of using a point system as part of its admissions process -- a system that favors black, Hispanic and Native American applicants over whites. Students applying to the University of Michigan are rated on a 150-point scale, with 80 points given for an A average, 60 for a B average, 12 for a perfect SAT score, and 20 for belonging to one of the three minority groups.

The idea is to counter years of racial discrimination and to achieve racial diversity at the institution by giving minority students an extra edge.

The challenge has now reached the Supreme Court, with the case scheduled to be heard in March. In the latest development, President Bush has instructed White House lawyers to file a brief opposing the Michigan program.

Spending the first 32 years of my life in Michigan, and several of those in Ann Arbor, I can tell you that the political atmosphere is very different from Arizona. The affirmative action program at the University of Michigan blends into that liberal climate very nicely.

And you can argue that the policy has achieved racial diversity. As recently as 1953, when I was a young, but diehard Wolverine fan, the Michigan football team had just one black player.

But if that black player were awarded a first down by gaining only eight yards, while the white players had to run 10, football fans would be outraged. And from that perspective, it's easy to agree with President Bush when he says the appropriate response to prejudice and discrimination is not to "create another wrong."

On the eve of Martin Luther King Day, it seems like a good opportunity to emphasize that the values and freedoms that Dr. King stood for must be applied to all people everywhere.

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