Affirmative action is topic of Michigan Law School event


 Public is invited to attend Feb. 22 symposium

By Jo Mathis
Legal News
How have affirmative action policies affected college enrollment?  How diverse are student populations at Michigan universities? Does it matter?
These are some of the questions that will be discussed when the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform holds a symposium on Saturday, Feb. 22 titled “Affirmative Action and School Diversity after Fisher v. Texas.” 
Michigan Law student Ben Clark says the Journal regularly sponsors events offering an in-depth look at one area of law in need of reform, and he hopes the public will take advantage of the presentations by scholars in the field.
“The goal is to get a conversation started about the graduate and undergraduate schools can do in the wake of Fisher v. Texas,”said Clark, who is the managing symposium editor. “Affirmative action is something that comes up frequently at the law school, and it’s something coming up more and more often at the college as well with the Being Black at Michigan Twitter campaign and the various protests that happened over the last semester and a half or so.”
Fisher v. Texas is the case involving a white student in 2008 who was denied admission to the University of Texas at Austin under a “holistic review” in which the applicant’s race may be considered. The student sued, claiming racial discrimination, and the courts upheld U-T’s affirmative action policy.
But in a 7-1 decision in June, the U.S. Supreme Court said the lower court should have used a stricter standard to determine whether U-T actually needs to consider race and ethnicity to achieve diversity and sent the case back to Fifth Circuit.
The Journal chose affirmative action for its symposium topic this year because of the potential for reform in the area and the law school’s unique place in shaping the current landscape of affirmative action in higher education, said the Journal’s editor-in-chief, Emma Cox.
“As the defendant in Grutter, the law school was instrumental in establishing that diversity in education is a compelling state interest,” she said. “The admissions policy at the University of Texas that was challenged in Fisher was modeled off the policy upheld in Grutter. Additionally, since the anti-affirmative action state referendum passed in Michigan in 2006, the law school’s admissions policy has been race neutral.
“We hope to facilitate conversations about the future of affirmative action and its place in educational settings, conversations that can have a real impact on future generations of students not only in Michigan but across the country.”
Theodore M. Shaw, a professor of Professional Practice in Law at Columbia Law School will give the keynote address at 12:45 p.m. Shaw will speak on the topic: “Brown at Sixty: The Quiet and Premature Death of a Beloved Icon.”
From 9 to 10:40 a.m., the first panel will focus on the future of affirmative action litigation  might look like. Panelists will include Maureen Mahoney, who argued at the Supreme Court on behalf of U-M’s affirmative action program in 2003. The court decided 5-4 in favor of U-M.
Other panels include:
• The Efficacy of Race Neutral Alternatives in Increasing On-Campus Diversity (10:50 to 12:30 p.m.)
• Competing Social Science on the Benefits of Race Conscious Affirmative Action Programs (1:45 to 3:15 p.m.)
• Challenges to Diversity in the K-12 Context (3:30 to 5 p.m.)
The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p .m in Room 1225 of the law school’s South Hall, 701 S. State Street, Ann Arbor. The hope is to fill a room of 125, and participants are invited to come to all or part of the day. Walk-ins are welcome, and there is no charge.
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