Motion for short-term delay allows MSU to be responsive and responsible

12-11-2006

As I have indicated in previous statements, Michigan State University is working to understand the boundaries of Proposal 2 and to work within those boundaries as we promote inclusion and diversity on our campus. I am pleased with the progress to date and thank the faculty, staff, and students who have been working to review our programs and to identify new and creative ways to assure a diverse and intellectually vital campus, work that will continue beyond the technically effective date of Proposal 2.

We continue to learn from the experiences of other states following similar initiatives, discussions with peer universities in the state, post-election statements from groups directly involved in advocacy related to the initiative, and expert commentary. Even with diligent work and the best of intentions, our ability to gain clarity will require legal and external policy interpretations.

Immediate issues have arisen that in our judgment and that of our colleagues at Wayne State University and the University of Michigan merit legal intervention and clarification. The effective date of Proposal 2—an arbitrary date selected without regard for academic calendars—falls in the middle of the cycle of admission and financial aid for the class entering fall 2007. This creates a dilemma: it is not possible to begin the admissions process over, yet proceeding under a new set of strictures is likely to lead to perceptions of unfairness even if we are already in general compliance with Proposal 2 in the matter of admissions.

Further, part of our financial aid pool has been committed for 2006–07 and part has not. Again, the playing field has changed or may be perceived by prospective students to have changed with the passage of Proposal 2. Moreover, we must work with our corporate partners and private donors to find new ways to approach those support agreements that included consideration of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin as a way to encourage diversity within the university community. These are as far-ranging as scholarships from the Daughters of the American Revolution, agricultural commodity groups, and major Michigan companies.

We believe that restrictions on the use of these funds for this cycle will adversely affect access to higher education just at a time when our students need as much support as possible. The role of financial assistance is essential to assuring that current and future students from all backgrounds have an opportunity to attain higher education and thus become part of Michigan’s economic turnaround. This imperative will persist even after Proposal 2 amends the state constitution.

Thus, we have joined with Wayne State University and the University of Michigan in seeking one-time, short-term injunctive relief to permit this current cycle of admissions and financial aid to proceed as fairly as possible. We each came to the decision for the need for this legal action by different paths and for different reasons. However, since we have each been named as a defendant in a suit filed by a group of plaintiffs led by the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary that seeks to prevent any alteration of programs or policies in response to Proposal 2, a counterclaim seeking this temporary injunctive relief seemed the most prudent legal course.

In essence, we are seeking a legal time-out in order to be fair to our students and in order to obtain more clarity from the courts and from the state. Yet, even as this legal action is unfolding, we continue to work as thoroughly and as rapidly as possible to understand and adapt to the boundaries of Proposal 2 as we meet our federal affirmative-action requirements and as we maintain our commitment to our core value of inclusion in the daily life of our campus. In this way, we are being both as responsive and responsible as possible.

Finally, we recognize that this issue is complex and sometimes confusing. To facilitate communication, a Web site has been established so that you can stay informed about ongoing campus discussions, interpretations, and decisions. I invite you to visit this site frequently. I will continue to offer my thoughts through postings on the President’s Web site and on the Proposal 2 Web site. Most important, I pledge to continue to listen and learn.

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