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Lawmakers, major corporations file briefs supporting U-M

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the CEO of American Express last week announced their plans to file briefs in support of the University's admissions policies. Feb. 19 is the deadline for the University and its amicus (friend of the court) supporters to file with the Supreme Court of the United States.

At a press conference Feb. 13 in Washington, John Conyers (D-Detroit) and about a dozen lawmakers unveiled a brief to be filed on behalf of 110 members of the House. Also in attendance were Michigan Reps. John Dingell (D-Dearborn), Dale Kildee (D-Flint) and Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Detroit) and former U.S. Sen. Don Riegle (D-Mich.).

"The most important social issue we face in this new century is how a highly diverse social people—a people that will have no majority race by the middle of the century—can coexist and prosper together," Conyers said. "If we fall victim to backward-looking 10th century legalistic formulas that result in the de facto segregation of American life, we will all be the worse for it."

Also attending the press conference were several U-M alumni now serving in Congress, including Reps. March Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.).

Other amicus briefs are being organized by U-M alumus and former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.). Current Democratic Michigan Sen. Carl Levin is helping put together another brief focused on the impact of affirmative action on the military. It will have a number of former high-ranking military officers as co-signers. Levin serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

American Express Co. (AMEX) also joins the list of more than 200 organizations that will file some 50 amicus briefs in support of U-M.

AMEX Chairman and CEO Kenneth Chenault told a campus audience Feb.11 that his firm is motivated by its support for diversity in the workplacewhich is built upon affirmative action in higher education.

Chenault's comments came during a speech delivered in Hale Auditorium at the Business School as part of Dean Robert Dolan's Speakers Series.

"We value diversity from the standpoint of not just race and nationality, but perspective. In every respect, we want to reflect society," Chenault said.

Early last week Gov. Granholm's office announced that she also will file a brief on behalf of the University.

Meanwhile, two reports from the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University show that percentage plans used in California, Florida and Texas do not effectively replace affirmative action. Percentage plans involve taking the top students from each high school and guaranteeing them admission in state universities.

"These percent plans have been presented as major alternatives to race-conscious affirmative action," says a Harvard news release. "Our research shows that they, in themselves, have very modest effects at best and do not lead to the level of diversity reflective of the students they are intended to serve."

In addition, the reports say other policies that go with these plansincluding outreach, recruitment, financial aid, and support programs aimed at schools and communities with heavy concentrations of minority studentsfocus on race. The authors argue that if the Supreme Court of the United States strikes down U-M's race-conscious admissions, is also should find these plans to be illegal.

The first report, "Appearance and Reality in the Sunshine State: The Talented 20 Program in Florida," is a detailed analysis of Florida's Talented 20 program, implemented when Gov. Jeb Bush ended affirmative action in state higher education admissions. The second study, "Percent Plans in College Admissions: A Comparative Analysis of Three States' Experiences," compares the experiences of Texas, California and Florida.

To view both reports go to: http://www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu/news/pressreleases.php/record_id=28/.

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