Detroit Today: How the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling may mirror Michigan law

While affirmative action is now banned nationwide, the precedent has existed in Michigan for more than a decade.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions programs in the United States this week. Many expect the ruling to have devastating consequences to campus diversity nationwide.

But in Michigan, similar rulings have already taken root.

The state banned affirmative action at public universities after a statewide ballot initiative in 2006. Since then, the population of Black students at the University of Michigan have decreased from 8% to less than 5%.

NPR’s Elissa Nadworny, the University of Michigan’s Evan Caminker and the University of Detroit Mercy’s Jelani Jefferson Exum joined Detroit Today to share their reactions to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling.

Listen: How the new Supreme Court ruling may mirror Michigan’s affirmative action laws.


Elissa Nadworny is a NPR education correspondent that covers higher education. She says college admissions around the nation may reflect those in Michigan. 

“We’ve had such clear demonstrations of what happens when an affirmative action ban is put in place in Michigan, in California,” says Nadworny. “In some ways it serves as a bit of the tea leaves of what will happen, and in some ways it also serves as a sort of roadmap of what is ahead, of what colleges need to do.”

Evan Caminker is a professor of civil rights and constitutional law at the University of Michigan and was the dean of the University of Michigan Law School after the school had a Supreme Court case regarding its affirmative action policies. Caminker says the effects of restricting affirmative action nationwide is wrong. 

“It is admittedly a question on which reasonable people might disagree,” says Carminker. “How do you get from where we are to the place that we all want to be? My own view, and the view of the dissents here, is that the majority is just cutting off this tool too early.”  

Jelani Jefferson Exum is the dean of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School and a professor of constitutional law. Exum says she was inspired by the dissent and is brainstorming ways to support students of all backgrounds at her school. 

“My reaction was the same as many of us who have been working in legal education towards equity,” says Exum. “It was one of disappointment, not surprise.”

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