Steve Chapman

The good news, she said, is that a variety of "outreach" programs will remain in operation despite the new law. This is a surprising revelation, since before Nov. 7, opponents of the ban insisted it would doom efforts to recruit minority and female students. Now we are told that it won't. Were we being misled then, or are we being misled now?

The same question applies to her insistence that the university can still achieve the kind of diversity it prizes. Before the vote, supporters of the initiative said it would not make the campus a sea of rich white kids. Now Coleman seems to concur. That, or she plans to defy the new policy by using race surreptitiously to achieve the same old ends.

But she also entertains the fantasy that the university can overturn Proposal 2 in court. If she believes that, I've got some oceanfront property in Kalamazoo that she might want to buy. A liberal group has already filed a lawsuit, making the ingenious claim that the ban on racial discrimination violates provisions of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws that . . . ban racial discrimination. In response to that theory, I have three words: Ha. Ha. Ha.

As it happens, the most liberal federal appeals court in the United States heard exactly the same arguments against the California measure, and it roundly rejected them. The court noted pointedly that the 1964 Civil Rights Act has language specifically addressing affirmative action: "Nothing contained in this subchapter shall be interpreted to require any [entity] . . . to grant preferential treatment to any individual or to any group because of the race, color, religion, sex or national origin of such individual or group." End of story.

It's no surprise that Coleman doesn't welcome the new ban or the constraints it puts on her enlightened discretion. But if the head of a state university can't respect a legally valid policy approved in a binding referendum by the people she serves, here is the speech she should give: "I quit."

Steve Chapman

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

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