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The Honorable Debbie Stabenow
Member, The United States Senate

Statement on the Floor of the Senate
January 15, 2003

"Mr. President, I rise to express my deep disappointment at news reports today that indicate that the Bush administration will try to overturn the admissions policy at the University of Michigan. As many people know, the Supreme Court will soon hear a case that could decide the future of racial diversity in all institutions of higher education.

"The University of Michigan’s admissions policy so far has been upheld by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals as constitutional. Unfortunately, those who want to dismantle all admissions programs that consider race have taken this all the way to the Supreme Court.

"It is important to note that this case is not about racial quotas. The University of Michigan does not have racial quotas for admission. I am opposed to racial quotas and this has been the law of the land since the Supreme Court’s decision in the Bakke case in 1978.

"The University of Michigan’s undergraduate admissions policy simply takes into account student diversity as one of many factors that are considered for admission. Incidentally, the most important factors for admission are the applicant’s grade point average and test scores. Race is one factor of diversity, but it is not the only factor.

"There are several other factors the University considers including: if the applicant comes from a socially or economically disadvantaged background, if the applicant is a white student from a majority minority high school, if the applicant comes from an underrepresented community such as one of Michigan’s many rural communities, or if the applicant is an athlete. The University considers a long list of factors including if the applicant is the child of an alumni or if he or she wrote a terrific essay.

"All of these factors help the University of Michigan select a diverse well-rounded student body that is not just racially diverse, but economically and geographically diverse. Do we not believe that students from our small towns and rural communities add a unique and valuable perspective to our academic institutions? What about our students who come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds? I know many Michigan families in the U.P. who have lost their jobs because of the steel mine closings. Don’t their children deserve an equal opportunity to attend one of the state’s best academic institutions?

"Mr. President, this debate is much greater than the admissions policy of one university. This is about whether or not we are going to have equal opportunity for all Americans. This is about whether or not we support policies that help provide the opportunity for Americans of all backgrounds to have a shot at the American dream. We already have policies to help veterans and help small businesses succeed. Shouldn’t we also give a helping hand to all young people who want to go to college?

"The Bush administration’s decision to try to dismantle University of Michigan’s admissions policy comes at a very tough time for our nation’s minority community. Over the past month, the Republican Party has undergone a makeover but it is a change in style, not of substance. Despite the White House’s recent proclamation of its commitment to issues that impact our minority community, it immediately renominated Charles Pickering to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals despite his controversial record on civil rights and his defense of someone convicted of burning a cross on the lawn of an interracial family. There has been no commitment by the administration to support hate crimes legislation or legislation to prevent racial profiling. There has not been a commitment to fully fund election reform measures to ensure that minority voters are not disenfranchised like in the 2000 elections.

"This administration seems to be all talk and no action. On the one hand, the President talks about the importance of expanding opportunity to all Americans but his administration’s policies do not back up his empty rhetoric.

"There is still time for the President to file a brief in this Supreme Court case — one that supports the University of Michigan’s admissions policy. I urge him to do so.”

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