Saturday, September 29, 2001

Affirmative action supported


Cases spark rally for new civil rights movement

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati will hear arguments in two affirmative action cases next month that could affect the future of integration at colleges and universities nationwide.

        A broad coalition of national civil rights, union, college and youth leaders are staging a national “new civil rights movement” demonstration in support of affirmative action at noon on Oct. 23 — the day of the hearing — on Fountain Square.

        Thousands of high school and college students, union members and NAACP Youth supporters are expected to converge in Cincinnati. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is co-sponsoring the rally, will be the featured speaker.

        “We really want to see a big turnout, particularly from the high schools in Cincinnati,” said Shanta Driver, a representative of The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action & Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). “This will be a critical day in our nation's history. The defense of affirmative action means for many young black, Latino and Native American students the only opportunity that they will have to get an education.”

        Several groups, including BAMN, the Kentucky Fairness Alliance and Students Together Against Racism (STAR) held a press conference on the steps of the federal building Friday to announce the rally, explain the two cases and gather signatures for a nationally-circulated petition in support of affirmative action.

        The two cases to be argued in Cincinnati, Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger, have received national attention. In both cases — one involving the University of Michigan's undergraduate school and the other UM's law school — white students alleged they were illegally denied admission because of their race. The suits claim the university discriminated against whites by reserving seats for less-qualified minority applicants.

        A three-judge panel at the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments from the University of Michigan and two student groups on why affirmative action should be preserved. The panel will also hear arguments from those representing the plaintiffs — a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit group called The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) — on why affirmative action programs are unfair and should be eliminated.

        Ms. Driver said, there is a split between the two district court decisions in Michigan. She said lower court judges found that in the University of Michigan undergraduate case the use of affirmative action programs was permissible, but that in the University of Michigan law school case they ruled the university could not use such programs.

        This court's decision, Ms. Driver said, will determine whether affirmative action is maintained in the Sixth Circuit, which covers Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.

        “If we lose affirmative action in this circuit, we will join the whole Deep South, which has now been effectively barred from using affirmative action and is returning to the days of Jim Crowe segregation,” she said.

        Terrence Pell, CEO for the Center for Individual Rights, could not be reached for comment Friday.

       



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