October 20, 2013

The Oct. 17 editorial, “An affirmative right of the people,” about the U.S. Supreme Court case involving Michigan’s ban on the consideration of race and ethnicity in college admissions decisions, missed the mark on several counts.

The First Amendment, interpreted over many years of judicial decisions, supports a university’s right to decide who shall be admitted. However, the fact that university regents could make the decision to bar consideration of race in admissions is very different from granting that same power to the ballot box. Does this mean voters by referendum could vote to mandate that the university stop teaching evolution?

The University of Michigan believes it is important to consider race and ethnicity in order to achieve its mission of educating a diverse group of leaders. The university struggled for years supporting its mission in extended expensive litigation. The Supreme Court in its recent Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin ruling affirmed the importance of the educational benefits that flow from diversity on campus. It is up to the faculty, administration and regents of the University of Michigan to govern the university and chart a course for its academic mission. Allowing the voters to strip those powers and disadvantage a minority in the process is a bad idea — and bad law.

Ada Meloy, Washington

The writer is general counsel for the American Council on Education.