California conservative activist Ward Connerly announced on Tuesday his plan to bring an anti-affirmative action ballot initiative, similar to California’s Proposition 209, to Michigan in 2004. The announcement comes on the heels of the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Michigan’s use of affirmative action, though not the specific criteria the university used for undergraduate admissions. Connerly lacks support from Michigan conservatives, including the state Republican Party. Republican spokesman Greg McNeilly said the initiative will only worsen racial tensions in Michigan and will not meaningfully address inequality in college admissions, which is actually due to the uneven quality of public schools, according to the Oakland Tribune. McNeilly characterized Connerly’s campaign as “divisive and therefore counterproductive,” reported the Los Angeles Times.
Connerly, a regent of the University of California and one of the driving forces behind the anti-affirmative action referendum Proposition 209, seeks to outlaw any use of preferences based on gender, race, or ethnicity in university admissions and government hiring practices, according to the Detroit Free Press. He and his supporters hope to place such measures on several state and local ballots for the November 2004 elections, as a kind of “Super Tuesday” of public opinion on affirmative action, the Times reported. “The president isn’t going to [dismantle affirmative action] and Congress isn’t going to do it,” Connerly told the Chicago Tribune. “We have no choice but to use the ballot box.” Connerly attempted to bring about a similar measure in Florida, but abandoned his efforts after Governor Jeb Bush passed his One Florida initiative.
Following the passage of Prop. 209, minority enrollment at the University of California fell considerably. California progressive activists continue to struggle to find ways to increase diversity on UC campuses. They face strong opposition from right-wing pressure groups, such as Virginia’s Center for Equal Opportunity. Edward Blum, a senior fellow at the Center, told the Times that his group would continue its push to convince universities to cease or radically change enrichment programs or other outreach aimed exclusively at people of color.