The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 23 decision striking down the University of Michigan’s race-based undergraduate admissions policy ended a decade-long struggle started by university administrators and finished by conservative legislators and their grassroots supporters.
On April 23, 1997, Michigan State Rep. David Jaye, a paleoconservative Republican from suburban Macomb County, sponsored an amendment to the higher-education appropriation prohibiting any public “institution of higher education” from implementing
an admissions policy that includes any quota, set-aside, numerical goal, time table, extension of application deadlines, grade adjustment, or other objective based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Jaye’s amendment targeted the undergraduate admissions policy at the University of Michigan, the state’s most prestigious public school. Jaye, a U of M graduate of Polish-American heritage, argued that the policy was race-based and unconstitutional. A coalition of liberal Republicans and Democrats defeated his measure. Michigan’s Republican leadership feared a challenge to U of M’s race-based policy would increase black voter turnout in Detroit and harm the electoral chances of statewide GOP candidates. Their indifference to the young victims of U of M’s discriminatory policies was one factor...