Steve Chapman

After the votes were counted on election night, there were lots of gracious concession statements by losing candidates thanking their supporters, offering to work with the winners and paying tribute to the virtues of democracy. Then there was Mary Sue Coleman, who was having none of this.

The day after Michigan's citizens voted to ban the use of racial and gender preferences by public institutions, the president of the University of Michigan gave an embittered speech telling them to take a long walk off a short pier. Her message was that the school would do "whatever it takes" to delay, frustrate and circumvent the clearly expressed will of the public. She could have been more succinct if she had merely repeated the words of Dick Tuck after losing a California state senate race in 1964: "The people have spoken -- the bastards."

Coleman has been a staunch champion of the idea of correcting racial discrimination by practicing racial discrimination. The University of Michigan 's admissions policies have the effect of accepting many black and Hispanic applicants who would be rejected if they were white or Asian-American.

Until the Supreme Court ruled it illegal, the formula automatically gave 20 points (out of 100 needed for acceptance) to anyone from an "underrepresented" minority group. A perfect SAT score, by contrast, was worth only 12 points. Though it struck down that approach, the court agreed to let the school employ race as a "plus factor" in a program aimed at assuring "diversity" in the student body. Double standards in the pursuit of what amount to racial quotas were allowed to continue.

But it turns out that was not the last word. Opponents of racial preferences responded to the Supreme Court decision by offering a state constitutional amendment, Proposal 2, to outlaw this kind of discrimination. On Nov. 7, it was approved with the support of 58 percent of the voters.

Coleman exudes contempt for these people, accusing them of opposing "a community that is fair and equal for all." She said California's 1996 ban on racial and gender preferences "has been a horribly failed experiment" that "we cannot, and will not, allow to take seed here in Michigan." And she assured her campus audience that she would not be bound by the intentions of the voters: "We will find ways to overcome the handcuffs that Proposal 2 attempts to place on our reach for greater diversity." (You can see a video of Coleman's speech at http://www.umich.edu/pres/speeches/061103div.html)


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
©Creators Syndicate