Topics, policies and issues relating to diversity sometimes raise highly complex, important questions, which ultimately require the guidance of the judiciary.

This section provides background information to explore some of those questions and trace their progress through the legal system.

Proposal 2 (2006)


Q: What is Proposal 2?

A: Proposal 2 was adopted by Michigan voters on November 7, 2006, and took effect in late December of that year. It amends the Michigan Constitution to ban public institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment, or public contracting.

Q: What is Proposal 2’s legal status?

A: In April 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Proposal 2 does not violate the U.S. Constitution. This means that Proposal 2 remains in effect.

The issue was taken to the Supreme Court by a coalition of groups, including the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary, which filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposal 2 under the Constitution. That case was consolidated with a later suit filed by a coalition of groups which included the American Civil Liberties Union.

Q: Does the University follow the law?

A: Yes. The University certainly obeys the law. We recognize the voters’ decision, and comply with Proposal 2. Given that most terms of the amendment are not defined, differences of opinion may arise over time about how to interpret its application to specific programs. Resolving those differences may sometimes require clarification. For example, similar ballot proposals were interpreted as permitting targeted outreach to underrepresented populations in Washington but prohibiting it in California. Over time, these uncertainties will be sorted out.

Q: How does Proposal 2 interact with federal laws?

A: The amendment contains an exception that permits any actions—even those that consider race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin—that are mandated by federal law or that are necessary in order for an institution to become or remain eligible to receive federal funding or to participate in a federal program.

Q: Does Proposal 2 prohibit public institutions from seeking diversity?

A: No. Proposal 2 precludes discrimination and preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin in public education, public employment, or public contracting. It does not in any way mean that diversity is no longer a permissible, indeed compelling, interest. The University of Michigan is firmly committed to the goal of creating a diverse educational environment. We continue to work to build a community that is comprised of faculty, staff, and students who come to U-M with a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. This diversity contributes to the excellence and dynamism of the University’s learning environment.

Q: Why does the University of Michigan believe diversity is so important?

A: We know from research, and from our experience as educators, that building a diverse community adds to the quality of our teaching and learning, our scholarship, and our creative endeavors. Then-President Mary Sue Coleman discussed this in her November 2006 address to the University community when she said, “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. This applies to our state as much as our University. Michigan’s public universities and our public bodies must be more determined than ever to provide opportunities for women and minorities, who make up the majority of our citizenry.”

As University President Mark Schlissel has stated, “our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of that word.”

Q: What is the relationship between the University’s pursuit of diversity and its academic excellence?

A: The University strives first and foremost to be academically excellent. Diversity is an essential component of our excellence. The quality of our academic programs is enhanced by the rich and varied contributions of our diverse students and faculty, who approach problems from different perspectives. Many top scholars are attracted to our community because they can study and conduct research with others who challenge their ways of looking at the world. The University of Michigan has become one of the top public universities in the world precisely because it is diverse—and measures such as our graduation rates, scholarly production, rankings of our academic programs and the number of applications for admission are evidence of this success.

Q: What has the University done about admissions and financial aid since passage of Proposal 2?

A: As stated in the language of Proposal 2, our admissions and financial aid processes do not discriminate against, nor grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. However, the amendment also specifies certain exceptions, including one for federally funded programs, and we follow those exceptions as well.

Q: Are underrepresented minority students still welcome at U-M?

A: Yes. All students who excel at their studies, and who aspire to attend the University of Michigan, are encouraged to apply, and, if admitted, to enroll. Our entire community works together to ensure that our climate is welcoming, and that the success of every student is supported.

Q: What is happening to underrepresented minority enrollment at U-M under Proposal 2?

A: The University continues to do everything in its power, within the law, to build a community that is broadly diverse, including with respect to racial and ethnic diversity. While we experienced some declines in minority enrollment following passage of Proposal 2, we have worked hard, and thus far successfully, to avoid the sharp declines seen in California’s top public universities following passage of that state’s Proposition 209. We are cautiously optimistic about current data, which suggest the potential for positive future trends in minority enrollment. Our greatest assets in our efforts are faculty, administration and staff, current students, alumni, and community members, all of whom play an important role in encouraging minority students to apply to U-M, and to enroll here if admitted.

Additionally, in Summer 2010, U-M joined the national Common Application membership association. (This means there is no longer a University of Michigan-specific application.) The Common App’s potential benefits—based on the experience of our peer schools that are also members—include increases in racial and ethnic diversity among applicants, additional geographic and socioeconomic diversity, and larger applicant volumes overall, as well as enhanced quality of the applicant pool overall.

Recent enrollment data are available online from the U-M Office of Budget and Planning.

Q: How are undergraduate admissions decisions made at U-M?

A: In recent years, we annually received 40,000 or more applications for an incoming freshman class of approximately 5,900 students. In evaluating those applications, we seek to enroll academically excellent, broadly diverse students who are engaged in extracurricular activities about which they are passionate. We consider academic qualifications in the forms of grade point average, within the context of the high school environment and the rigor of the curriculum selected, as well as standardized test scores. We also consider students’ essays, extracurricular activities, leadership, awards, service and letters of recommendation from both an academic teacher and a high school counselor so that we may assemble an incoming class each year that will best contribute to the University community.

To achieve this, we use an individualized and holistic process to evaluate each application. Every application receives a minimum of two independent reviews. The reviewers all bring substantive professional experience, and receive training each year regarding the admissions process. Application Readers evaluate numerous complex factors as they make a recommendation for the final decision:

Academic achievements are by far the most important consideration, as demonstrated by the applicant’s high school record. Did s/he follow a rigorous course of study? Did s/he take advantage of opportunities, such as accelerated and advanced placement courses in the areas where s/he does his/her strongest work? If those courses were not available, did the applicant take advantage of the opportunities that were available? The grade point average is recalculated using all courses, 9th-11th grade, on an un-weighted 4.0-scale. The rigor of the curriculum selected by a student within his/her specific school environment provides the context necessary to enable us to identify those students who have distinguished themselves. Standardized test scores, the SAT and/or ACT, often provide context for this achievement as well.

Based on the student’s essays, letters of recommendation, and extra-curricular experiences, we seek a personal understanding of the student as an individual. What are her/his interests, demonstrated leadership, and talents (i.e., in the arts, sciences, athletics, etc.)?
What are the student’s life experiences, and how might those contribute to the University community? (i.e., Is s/he first-generation in the family to attend college? Did s/he achieve excellence despite financial and/or other challenges that made academics and/or extra-curricular involvement more difficult?)

Is s/he from a geographic area, socioeconomic profile, neighborhood, or high school that is currently underrepresented in our student community?

All students who aspire to the University of Michigan are encouraged to submit their applications during the fall of their senior year. Every student who applies before the application deadline will be given full and fair consideration.

Q: How do you let people know about your admissions process? Aren’t there secret parts of the process that you don’t share with applicants, their families, and the general public?

A: No. There are no secret parts of the process. In fact, U-M may be the only major school in the country to have such a transparent undergraduate admissions process, which is fully available online.

Q: Are race, ethnicity, national origin, and gender still on the application? If yes, why?

A: Proposal 2 forbids granting preferential treatment on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, and gender in public education, but does not forbid collection of that information. Moreover, the University is required by law to report these data in some instances.

Q: How do you know that the undergraduate admissions staff who can still see race, ethnicity, gender, and national origin on the application aren’t using those factors in their decision-making?

A: We make the rules clear to all our reviewers and fully expect that they follow them. All our application reviewers are experienced professionals, and—given the confidential nature of much of the information students share on their applications—we take the integrity of our reviewers very seriously. Additionally, checks and balances built into the multiple-review process, such as having each application independently reviewed by at least two staff members, also help to ensure compliance by individual reviewers.

Q: Does the University make financial aid awards based in part on race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin?

A: No. University-funded financial aid programs do not consider race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin when making awards. Where Proposal 2 permits consideration of these factors, such as in certain federal grant programs, we comply with the requirements.

Q: Can U-M replace race- and gender-conscious programs with ones that focus on socioeconomic status?

A: Socioeconomic status has long been considered in our programs, including admissions and financial aid, and it continues to be a priority for us to ensure that opportunities are extended to all students regardless of their financial circumstances. But consideration of socio-economic factors, alone, does not help us enroll a student body that is racially or ethnically diverse, nor does it help us achieve gender diversity. For example, there are far more white students from low-income families applying to the University than minority students from low-income families. Socioeconomic status is not a substitute for race or ethnicity. This has been shown clearly at other schools that have tried to achieve racial or ethnic diversity through consideration of socioeconomic factors. And socioeconomic status is not at all helpful in promoting gender diversity.

Q: What is U-M doing about University-funded financial aid programs that formerly included some consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin factors?

A: University-funded financial aid programs that were previously available to admitted students based in part on race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin no longer consider those factors and are now available to students based on other criteria that remain permissible under Proposal 2. Those criteria include factors such as: high school attended, socioeconomic status, first-generation-college status, those living in single-parent homes, participation in certain federal programs such as Upward Bound, Gear Up, or Trio, etc. The Jean Fairfax Scholarship and the Michigan Experience Scholarship are examples of University-funded programs that are currently offered.

The University of Michigan makes more than $144.8 million dollars in grants, or free money, available to our admitted students. This is one of the largest pools of financial aid resources available at any public institution in the country. U-M’s generous grant aid makes it more affordable to attend U-M than any other public university in the state or any public university in the Big Ten.

A total of 73.3 percent of U-M students receive some type of financial aid. A significant portion of financial aid is based on student’s need. The University covers the full demonstrated financial need of every admitted Michigan-resident undergraduate—a policy that has been supported by the U-M Board of Regents for many years.

Consistent with the amendment’s terms, federally funded aid is not affected by Proposal 2.

Q: How does Proposal 2 impact U-M’s capacity to apply for federal grants that consider race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin?

A: Individuals at the University should, as always, continue to disseminate announcements of federal grant programs and may apply for grants under federal programs that seek to promote diversity. If the University is chosen as a grant recipieMove pagent, then it should comply with the terms of that grant, including any terms that require consideration of race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin in pursuit of the goals of the federal program.

Q: How does the University think about national origin in its efforts to build a diverse community?

A: The world is more interconnected than ever before, and graduates of our University must learn about the complexities of operating in a global environment if they are to be successful leaders. U-M works to build a learning community that is broadly diverse, and that includes welcoming students, staff, and faculty from all across the globe. These international scholars contribute to our vibrant intellectual community.

Q: What is the relationship between the University’s pursuit of diversity and its role in the state’s economic growth?

A: The state of Michigan is undergoing a difficult economic transition, one in which the education and preparation of its citizens for a new economy will be more important than ever before. A number of reports have identified the urgency of ensuring that an ever-greater cross-section of Michigan’s population is able to attain a college degree. We must tap all available talent in our state if we are to prosper in the future. The University of Michigan and other public universities in our state will play a critical role in extending these opportunities to all our citizens.

Q: Following passage of Proposal 2, has U-M undertaken new efforts to achieve the goal of a diverse community?

A: Yes. The Center for Educational Outreach was established to advance the University’s continuing commitment to educational outreach and collaboration with K-12 schools, service organizations, and communities.

This website ( provides a comprehensive compilation of the University’s diversity, equity and inclusion resources and programming. It also is the online interface for staff, faculty and students to learn about and provide input to the current all-campus diversity, equity and inclusion strategic planning process, which will result in a five-year plan, 2016–2021.

Q: Will U-M discontinue the programs that encourage and support diversity within its student community, like Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA), Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP), Women in Science and Engineering (WISE), Undergraduate Research Opportunities (UROP), etc.?

A: No. These programs are needed more now than ever before. These programs have been reviewed since the passage of Proposal 2, and they do comply with the law.

Q: Has U-M discontinued programs that reach out to specific minorities or genders, such as those that encourage girls to study science or engineering?

A: We have reviewed these outreach and pipeline programs and believe they are on firm legal ground.

Q: Has U-M continued outreach programs directed to women and underrepresented minority high school students?

A: U-M is committed to continue outreach programs, because we must be able to extend the opportunity for a college education to all students, and because we believe our targeted outreach programs remain lawful. The success of the state of Michigan depends on these types of outreach efforts. Partnerships with high schools are an important pipeline for drawing great students to Michigan, and those programs will go on.

Q: Will U-M student clubs and other organizations that focus on race, gender, or nationality, like the Society of Women Engineers or the Black Student Union, still exist under the provisions of Proposal 2?

A: The University supports a wide range of student organizations, and those will be able to continue. All recognized U-M student groups are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, or national origin (among other factors) in their membership criteria. Many of those student organizations have as their mission the support of a particular gender or racial or ethnic group, and that does not need to change, as long as the student organization membership is open to all who support that mission.

Q: Has U-M changed its employment practices to comply with Proposal 2?

A: Employment practices at U-M already complied with Proposal 2, and therefore, did not change. In addition, the University’s nondiscrimination policy remains in effect. The passage of Proposal 2 does not change U-M’s commitment to diversity, nor does it alter the University’s employment practices or the protections and requirements of various federal and state laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits a wide array of discrimination extending far beyond race and gender. Federal law requires the University, as a federal contractor, to take affirmative steps in the employment process in order to adhere to the equal employment opportunity and affirmative action provisions of Executive Order 11246 regarding race, gender, color, religion, and national origin.

Q: Does the University continue to seek minority and women faculty members?

A: Yes. Recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty is critical to our academic excellence. This important work will continue. Contact the Office for Institutional Equity for information on current guidelines.

Q: Can the University still call itself an “affirmative action employer” after Prop 2?

A:Yes. In fact, as a federal contractor, the University is required by Executive Order 11246 “to take affirmative action to ensure that all individuals have an equal opportunity for employment.”

Q: What does “affirmative action” mean under Executive Order 11246?

A: Under Executive Order 11246, the University must create an annual affirmative action plan that evaluates the composition of the University’s workforce, by job category, and compares it to the composition of the relevant labor pools for each job category. “When the percentage of minorities or women employed in a particular job group is less than would reasonably be expected given their availability percentage in that particular job group,” the University must assess whether there are any problem areas that might be affecting its ability to attract a diverse workforce, and take affirmative steps – such as conducting targeted outreach, assessing its hiring practices, etc. – to address them.

Q: My unit was informed that there was a federally required affirmative action goal for the position we are posting. What does this mean? Does it mean that the University can consider race (ethnicity, sex, etc.) in evaluating candidates? Or if there are two equally qualified candidates, can the University give the edge to the candidate who would help it meet its federally mandated affirmative action goal?

A: The existence of a goal means that you must take affirmative steps to try to diversify your applicant pool for that open position. For example, if the federally mandated goal relates to increasing the percentage of women in your workforce, you might place your posting in, among other places, publications that target female professionals.

The federal regulations make clear, however, that placement goals “do not provide . . . a justification to extend a preference to any individual, select an individual, or adversely affect an individual’s employment status, on the basis of that person’s race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin.” Id. § 60-2.16(e)(2) (emphasis added). Therefore, you still cannot consider race (ethnicity, sex, etc.) in evaluating candidates or in choosing among qualified candidates at any stage of the search and hiring process.

Q: What has happened with the resources that, before Proposal 2, were dedicated to underrepresented minorities and gender-related programming?

A: Building a diverse community is an essential part of the University’s mission, and this work continues. A decrease in resources dedicated to these efforts is not anticipated, though, of course, those resources will be used in a manner that complies with applicable law.

Q: Has there been a change in the climate on the U-M campus?

A: The entire University community is working together to make sure our climate is welcoming, and that the success of every individual is supported. Every student admitted to U-M is highly qualified, and has earned his or her place at the University through hard work and academic achievement. Our faculty and staff are among the best in their fields, and are the foundation of our academic excellence. The University’s Expect Respect and Campus Commitment initiatives are significant reminders of the importance we place on respect for every individual.

Q: Where can I go for more information?

A: The University website, Diversity Matters at Michigan, is devoted to information, resources, and research about diversity. Updates are posted there regularly. In addition, U-M faculty, staff and students may submit questions to the Office for Institutional Equity, which will route their queries to the appropriate areas for response.

Amendment Language

Proposal 2 Amends The State Constitution By Adding A Section 26 To Article I, As Follows:

ARTICLE I, SECTION 26: Civil Rights.

  1. The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
  2. The state shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
  3. For the purposes of this section “state” includes, but is not necessarily limited to, the state itself, any city, county, any public college, university, or community college, school district, or other political subdivision or governmental instrumentality of or within the State of Michigan not included in sub-section 1.
  4. This section does not prohibit action that must be taken to establish or maintain eligibility for any federal program, if ineligibility would result in a loss of federal funds to the state.
  5. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted as prohibiting bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.
  6. The remedies available for violations of this section shall be the same, regardless of the injured party’s race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin, as are otherwise available for violations of Michigan anti-discrimination law.
  7. This section shall be self-executing. If any part or parts of this section are found to be in conflict with the United States Constitution or federal law, the section shall be implemented to the maximum extent that the United States Constitution and federal law permit. Any provision held invalid shall be severable from the remaining portions of this section.
  8. This section applies only to action taken after the effective date of this section.
  9. This section does not invalidate any court order or consent decree that is in force as of the effective date of this section.

Related Content

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division
Russell & Toward a Fair Michigan (TAFM) v. University of Michigan & Granholm
Cantrell (ACLU et al.) v. Granholm

Admissions Lawsuits

Admissions Lawsuits: This site provides background information on the two lawsuits challenging University of Michigan admissions policies that were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in June, 2003.

Same-Sex Benefits

The University of Michigan offers benefits for adult dependents who meet the requirements of the Other Qualified Adult (OQA) category. Although U-M does not offer benefits based on a domestic partnership, coverage for an adult who shares a primary residence with the U-M employee can be elected when all OQA requirements are met:

  1. The employee is eligible for U-M benefits; and
  2. The employee does not already enroll a spouse in health or other benefits; and
  3. The Other Qualified Adult, at the time of proposed enrollment, shares a primary residence with the employee and has done so for the previous 6 continuous months, other than as an employee or tenant.

Other Documents

This page collects links to other legal documents and information on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion involving the University of Michigan

Amicus brief – Fisher v. U. Texas at Austin