[Updated on Nov. 10]
Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, has delivered an amazing speech on her determination to keep fighting for “diversity.” Her speech is so overheated that I found myself hoping that after she delivered it she took a couple of aspirins and lay down for a while.
Whatever else may be said about it, racial and ethnic preference is only one cylinder in the engine of producing “diversity.” (Remember how its advocates always insisted that race was only one of many factors considered, etc., etc.?) Yet Ms. Coleman says several times, in several ways, that Michigan is “diversity”: “it is what makes us the great university we are … the University of Michigan is diversity.” Coleman reacts to being deprived of the authority to discriminate to produce diversity (actually, to what she regards not as actual deprivation but as the threat of deprivation) as though some skinhead majority of racist yahoos had burned down all her libraries and forbidden the legislature to appropriate money to buy more books.
She does, begrudgingly, pay at least lip service to the obligation to limit her efforts “to overcome the handcuffs that Proposal 2 attempts to place on our reach for greater diversity” to “every legal option.” She says, in passing, that “Of course the University of Michigan will comply with the laws of the state,” but the tone and substance of the speech nevertheless bristles with resistance and defiance and anger at the substantial majority of Michigan voters who have placed her in the “handcuffs” of no longer being able to engage in racial discrimination. Actually, she doesn’t even recognize that the Michigan Constitution does place her in “handcuffs,” only that it “attempts to.
Coleman’s speech is thus worthy of being placed alongside a similar speech by Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick as a worthy successor to George Wallace’s determination to stand in the schoolhouse door. As I said, it bristles with defiance, not with determination to work within the new limits imposed by her employer, the citizens of Michigan. Some examples:
- … we will not be deterred in the all-important work of creating a diverse, welcoming campus. We will not be deterred….
- … we pledge to remain unified in our fight for diversity
- I am standing here today to tell you that I will not allow this university to go down the path of mediocrity…. Diversity makes us strong, and it is too critical to our mission, too critical to our excellence, and too critical to our future to simply abandon.
- [Proposition 209 in California] is an experiment that we cannot, and will not, allow to take seed here at Michigan. [An “experiment”? It was a constitutional amendment in California, as it is in Michigan!]
- I will not stand by while the very heart and soul of this great university is threatened. We are Michigan and we are diversity.
- Let me say that again: I am fully and completely committed to building diversity at Michigan, and I will do whatever it takes. [Her allies in BAMN have said this a bit more succinctly: “by any means necessary.”]
It seems to me that President Coleman has two choices: after the delaying legal maneuvers have run their course she can defy or evade the new prohibition on racial preferences, or she can find new, race-neutral ways to promote what she regards as “diversity,” i.e., a sufficient representation of students with various skin colors. But, as I pointed out yesterday (here), if she is now successful in finding race-neutral ways to promote racial diversity she will be in effect admitting that the university did not do what was required even by Grutter, which is to engage in
serious, good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives that will achieve the diversity the university seeks.
Finally, I found one of the milder resistance measures she announced yesterday every bit as interesting as the more fire-breathing ones:
In the short term, we will seek confirmation from the courts to complete this year’s admissions cycle under our current guidelines. We believe we have the right, indeed the obligation, to complete this process using our existing policies. It would be unfair and wrong for us to review students’ applications using two sets of criteria, and we will ask the courts to affirm that we may finish this process using the policies we currently have in place.
President Coleman is so caught up in the mystique of “diversity” that she fails to see the irony (or something worse than irony) in believing it “unfair and wrong” to review one set of applicants under a system that pushes some toward the front of the line and others toward the rear based on their race alone and another set of applicants according to race-neutral standards, but she sees nothing wrong with— indeed, she asserts that the very essence of the university requires — rewarding some and punishing others because of their race.
What a sorry spectacle….
as more and more universities stop using racial-admission preferences, it becomes harder and harder for the remaining schools to insist that one simply cannot run a decent university without them.
In fact, I would argue, as Clegg implies, that it should already be impossible to make that argument with a straight face. Thus when President Coleman boldy proclaims that
I am standing here today to tell you that I will not allow this university to go down the path of mediocrity. That is not Michigan. Diversity makes us strong, and it is too critical to our mission, too critical to our excellence, and too critical to our future to simply abandon
— in other words, that Michigan without pigmentary “diversity” is not Michigan — she is in effect saying that Berkeley and UCLA have been mediocre non-entities for the past decade. But then I suspect most clear-minded readers of President Coleman’s speech will see that she really did not make it with a straight face but rather with a face that was distorted ideological dyspepsia. She was displaying the difficulty she’s having digesting the fact that the citizens of Michigan have forced the university, kicking and screaming, to treat all its applicants and employees without regard to their race.