Washington (CNN) - The Supreme Court agreed Monday to confront another high-profile challenge to affirmative action in college admissions.
The justices will decide the constitutionality of a voter referendum in Michigan banning race- and sex-based discrimination or preferential treatment in public university admission decisions.
The high court is currently deciding a separate challenge to admissions policies at the University of Texas, which did not involve a voter referendum.
A federal appeals court last year concluded the affirmative action ban, which Michigan voters passed in a 2006 referendum, violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection laws.
It was the latest step in a legal and political battle over whether the state's colleges can use race and gender as a factor in choosing which students to admit. The ban's opponents say classroom diversity remains a necessary government role.
By Noni Ellison-Southall, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Noni Ellison-Southall serves as senior counsel for Turner Broadcasting System Inc., which operates CNN, and heads Turner’s music division. She is on the boards of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, MARTA, the Atlanta Speech School and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications. She is a graduate of Howard University and University of Chicago Law School.
(CNN) - I was in a dead sleep the night of February 13 when I got an unexpected phone call. President Barack Obama would be visiting a preschool in nearby Decatur, Georgia, just days after he’d announced a priority on early childhood education. I was invited to hear him speak.
It would be special to hear the president addressing the importance of education, but especially for me. He was my law school professor. I wondered if he, now the president of the United States, was aware that he’d had a profound impact on my life years earlier at the University of Chicago Law School?
I didn’t have long to reflect. My mind was racing as reality set in. With only 12 hours till showtime, what would I wear? What should I say? Would he remember me from class? I needed to get my camera, and of course, my syllabus from “Current Issues in Racism and Law,” the class he’d taught.
It was stored safely in a green binder in an old leather briefcase in the basement with my law books. He’d apologized in the notes for messy copies, a consequence of not having a teacher’s assistant. “On the other hand,” he’d written in the syllabus, “my wife tells me that she wouldn’t have minded getting the professor’s notations on her reading material when she was in law school.” I wasn’t sure if he would sign it, but I planned to ask.
At a recreation center in Decatur, I sat in the row with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Sylvia Reed, his mother. It’s a modest and very intimate space. There was festive music playing, press and security everywhere and a colorful banner that read “Preschool for All” hanging on the wall. Teachers walked around, giggling and taking pictures in front of the podium with the presidential seal affixed. A sense of excitement and anticipation filled the venue. It was surreal. Was I really going to meet the president of the United States today, all those years after I’d met him the first time?
By Carl Azuz, CNN
(CNN) It’s not a new debate by any stretch, but a renewed effort - and court case - are putting it back in the spotlight. Some of California’s African-American and Latino students are hoping a federal appeals court will allow public universities to consider race when admitting new students.
Affirmative action in California’s public agencies has been banned for 16 years.
In Proposition 209, voters decided that race shouldn’t be a deciding factor. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Prop 209 in 1997, and the California Supreme Court has upheld it twice.
But the issue is back in front of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court for several reasons. Civil rights advocates who want the ban overturned point to a pair of cases: A 2003 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed law schools to consider race in admissions, and a 2011 federal appeals court ruling overturned Michigan’s ban on considering race in higher education. California’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, supports the effort to overturn Prop 209; during the last legal battle, the state’s Republican governor, Pete Wilson, supported the ban.