Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, left, standing with Jennifer Gratz, Chief Executive Officer of XIV Foundation, speaks to reporters after arguing their case before the Supreme Court in Washington,Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (USA TODAY) -- Jennifer Gratz, a well-known crusader against the
use of affirmative action in college admissions, says a list of demands
released this week by a group of black students at the University of Michigan is unconstitutional.
comments echoed even harsher criticisms unleashed on social media
against the Black Student Union. The backlash came after the group
demanded Monday that the university enroll more black students and make
other changes at the Ann Arbor school.
STORY: Black Student Union at U-M: Change needs to happen
The Black Student Union says the requests are aimed at making black students feel more empowered and welcome on campus.
But they've also sparked controversy.
want special treatment and separate treatment based on their race,"
Gratz told the Free Press. "That's something that the civil rights
movement has fought against for decades."
The students' demands
come as diversity at the school has been in the spotlight over the last
several months. Enrollment of black students has been declining, and
school officials recently announced steps to boost diversity and
increase black enrollment.
Members of the BSU announced seven
demands Monday outside a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day event at Hill
Auditorium. They include an increased budget for the group, the
renovation and relocation of a multicultural center and emergency
scholarships for black students.
An online video of the event
shows one student saying "physical actions" will be taken if the
university does not respond within seven days.
"I don't think the
university should engage with groups that threaten and put superficial
deadlines on activity and ask the university to take unconstitutional
action," Gratz said.
Geralyn Gaines, the secretary for the BSU,
said Tuesday that any activism the students engage in will be
non-violent. She said students are hoping to have discussions with
university leaders in the coming days.
University officials do
plan to meet with students, said Rick Fitzgerald, spokesman for the
university. A meeting has not yet been scheduled.
junior, said alumni and other people have responded positively through
e-mail. But the majority of feedback online has been negative, she said,
with some critics using the terms "racists," "terrorists" and
"Our e-mail system has been blowing up all day with
positivity," she said. "But comments on the Internet (in response to
news stories), probably 97% of them are negative, and they're not from
students of color. They're mostly white students making comments. It's
disheartening. It's disappointing. It's sad."
Gaines described the
racial climate on campus as "just not good." She pointed to an incident
this past fall in which a mostly white fraternity at the school landed
in hot water over party advertisements that used derogatory words for
women and stereotyped blacks.
In November, students launched a Twitter campaign
to raise concerns about race and diversity using the hashtag "BBUM,"
which stands for Being Black at the University of Michigan.
students' requests will benefit the entire campus, Gaines said, citing
an increase in black student enrollment as an example.
"To be educated on different cultures, it just makes you a better person," she said.
than a decade ago, Gratz successfully fought against the use of an
affirmative action point system in the undergraduate admissions process
at the school.
Gratz, who was denied admission to U-M as a high
school senior, and others sued over the admissions policies. In 2003,
the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the U-M Law School's use of race as a
consideration in admissions, as long as there were no quotas. However,
it threw out the undergraduate admissions system that awarded extra
points to African-American, Hispanic and American Indian students.
was also one of the organizers behind the Michigan Civil Rights
Initiative, otherwise known as Proposal 2, the 2006 voter-approved ban
on the use of affirmative action in college admissions and state hiring.
university has said black enrollment has declined since the change.
Black students made up 4.6% of U-M's freshman class in 2012, down from
about 6.7% in 2008, not including international students. It was 4.1% in
Later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether the voter-approved ban should stand.
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