From Proposition 209 to Proposal 2 (2008)

From Proposition 209 to Proposal 2:
Examining the Effects of Anti-Affirmative Action Voter Initiatives

February 9, 2008

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The diversity of perspectives that is cherished and celebrated by the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and the University of Michigan community is threatened with the passage of ballot initiatives like Michigan’s Proposal 2, which bans the use of race and gender in school admissions. These issues are both timely and critically important in a society that is becoming increasingly segregated by race and ethnicity, both residentially and socially. With the recent passing of Proposal 2 as well as the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding the use of race in public schools, we believe it is crucial to maintain an open and positive dialogue regarding race and education. To that end, our Symposium endeavors to address the variety of policy and legal questions arising out of the anti-affirmative action movement. Our Symposium will explore a broad range of issues including: the current effects of Proposition 209 in California and the potential effects of Proposal 2 on public university education and leadership within the state of Michigan, potential legal alternatives to affirmative action, and existing and emerging efforts to remedy K-12 educational disparities. Most notably, we present this symposium with the hope of preserving the University of Michigan’s longstanding commitment to diversity and as an answer to University of Michigan President Coleman’s request to “Show others what a U-M education looks like”.



Session I: Ending Affirmative Action: The Current Effects of Proposition 209 in California and the Potential Effects of Proposal 2 on Public University Education in Michigan

This panel focuses on the likely impact of the passage of Proposal 2 on public university education in Michigan by examining the effect of Proposition 209, the California constitutional amendment similar to Michigan’s, on California public universities. Panelists will be asked to examine whether Michigan universities will have an equivalent experience as California universities by examining the similarities and differences between the two states in regards to economics and class, racial and ethnic diversity, and local and statewide politics. Because testimonial experiences are just as valuable as facts and data, professionals who are currently teaching and working under the effects of Proposition 209 and Proposal 2 have been selected for this first panel.

Session II: Measuring Diversity in Other Ways: Potential Legal Alternatives to Affirmative Action

After discussing the potential positive and negative effects Proposal 2 will have on Michigan public university education, this panel will focus on possible alternatives to using race and gender classifications to achieve classroom diversity. Are there other quantifiable characteristics that would maintain a healthy level of diversity? Should the use of proxies to race and gender be encouraged, and if so would they be legal under most federal and state constitutions? Panelists will be asked to express their opinion on the effectiveness and legality of the various techniques for obtaining and retaining diversity that have been popularly debated. Panelists will also be asked to voice their approval or concern with the methods public universities have embraced when faced with restrictions on the use of race or gender classifications.p>

Session III: Existing and Emerging Efforts to Remedy K-12 Educational Disparities

The final panel will shift focus from public universities to K-12 public schools. A frequent argument is that affirmative action at the university level is often too late and that the real assistance needs to be made at the K-12 level. This panel will examine several questions including: What duty, if any, do affirmative action supporters have to refocus their efforts on these children after the passage of ballot initiatives like Proposal 2? What disparities should be targeted first? How should they be targeted? Are lawyers in a unique position to address these disparities? Does Proposal 2 limit the techniques that can be used at the K-12 level? The hope is that this panel will generate ideas and excitement to help combat the gross educational disparities that have lead to the need and creation of affirmative action.


Dean Frank Wu (Wayne State University Law School)
Professor Mark Rosenbaum (University of Michigan Law School)
Professor Cheryl Harris (UCLA School of Law)
Professor Emily Houh (University of Cincinnati College of Law)
Professor Matthew Fletcher (Michigan State University College of Law)
Martha Kim (The Level Playing Field Institute)
Professor Christina Whitman (University of Michigan Law School)
Professor Kim Forde-Mazrui (University of Virginia Law School)
Professor Luis Fuentes-Rohwer (University of Indiana-Bloomington School of Law)
Professor Daria Roithmayr (USC Gould School of Law)
Professor Mario Barnes (University of Miami Law School)
Professor Ellen Katz (University of Michigan Law School)
Professor Margaret Montoya (University of New Mexico School of Law)
Dean Michael Kaufman (Loyola University Chicago School of Law)
Professor Sumi Cho (DePaul University School of Law)
Susan Benton (Winston & Strawn LLP)

Professor Guy-Uriel Charles (University of Minnesota Law School)


Winston & Strawn LLP
Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP
Mayer Brown
Vinson & Elkins
Neal Gerber & Eisenberg LLP
DLA Piper

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