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CNNU: Students debate affirmative action

By Melissa Domsic
Special to CNN
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Editor's note: CNNU is a feature that provides student perspectives on news and trends from colleges across the United States. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of CNN, its affiliates or the schools where the campus correspondents are based. This contributor is Melissa Domsic, a student at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

EAST LANSING, Michigan (CNN) -- Affirmative action was the topic of debate leading up to the midterm elections as students at Michigan State University in East Lansing have been rallying for and against the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative is a ballot proposal that would amend the state constitution to ban any discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, gender, color, ethnicity or national origin for public employment, contracting or education.

For MSU students, the debate centered on affirmative action, which would end if voters approve the proposal. The university does not consider race or gender for student admission, but it is factored into hiring decisions.

Students also focused on how the amendment could affect programs for minorities and women, as well as minority enrollment at the university.

More than 450 students attended a debate on the issue last month.

Kyle Bristow, president of MSU's Young Americans for Freedom, argued for the proposal and Eric Gregory, a student running for state representative, argued against it.

Bristow began the debate by calling affirmative action a racist policy.

"Preferential affirmative action patronizes American blacks, women and others for assuming they cannot succeed on their own," the international relations sophomore said.

If there are ways in which affirmative action is not working, then we should fix them, but it'd be irrational to outlaw the entire system, said Gregory, political theory and constitutional democracy senior.

"It's a misconception to say that affirmative action prevents qualified individuals from admittance to universities or getting good jobs," he said. "Affirmative action, instead, is a system that ensures that qualified individuals of all backgrounds are considered for employment and admittance in an equal way."

Some students are worried the proposal would eliminate programs aimed at helping women and minorities.

Political theory sophomore Meagan Montez said the amendment would decrease funding for such programs, as well as lower minority enrollment in universities.

"I think minorities are already underrepresented, and it's going (to) cause even more under representation on college campuses," she said.

Although MSU claims to be a diverse school in its brochures, minorities don't feel that way, journalism sophomore Robert McElwee said. He said the amendment would only make things worse.

But diversity is more than skin-deep, political science senior Meredith Phillis said.

"(Affirmative action) should be based on class, socio-economic status and stuff like that," she said.

Not every student had strong opinions on the subject.

"I can understand the arguments that are coming from both sides," international relations and psychology freshman Nada Zohdy said. "It's very hard to come down and make a decision on such a complicated issue."


Melissa Domsic


A Michigan measure would scrap affirmative action programs in university admissions and government hiring.


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