PFAW Criticizes Bush Attack on University of Michigan Affirmative Action Program

President Bush’s decision urging the Supreme Court to rule against the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program is the latest evidence that his administration’s policies on civil rights and equal opportunity bear no relation to its rhetoric, said People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. PFAWF will be joining an amicus brief in support of the program in the case before the Supreme Court.

"Actions speak louder than words," said Neas. "This decision indicates that President Bush’s commitment to his right-wing political base outweighs his professed commitment to educational opportunity."

"The President’s decision to throw the full weight of the federal government against the University of Michigan’s efforts to create a diverse learning environment could unfortunately have a far greater impact on people’s lives than all the press conferences about outreach and all the promises of a ‘new day’ in the Republican Party," said Neas.

Neas said the administration’s attack on the University of Michigan admissions policy represents one more step by the national Republican Party away from what had been for decades a bipartisan consensus on civil rights, the importance of diversity, and effective remedies to the lingering impact of discrimination.

Noting that right-wing groups had stepped up their pressure on the administration in advance of today’s announcement, Neas said that this case was not about racial quotas. "Racial quotas are already illegal," Neas said. "This case is about trying to prevent colleges from taking race into account as they attempt to create a diverse student body, a goal with a demonstrated educational value. The administration’s position ignores both the reality of our increasingly diverse society and the real impact of discrimination."

Neas said the University of Michigan legal case is part of a much broader assault on both affirmative action and civil rights enforcement. "Affirmative action programs have helped desegregate America," said Neas. "Racial discrimination in employment, housing, voting and education is a very real part of our history and an unfortunate reality in our country today. Undermining our ability to provide remedies for discrimination – whether by attacking affirmative action or appointing federal judges who are opposed to basic principles of civil rights enforcement – is a huge step backwards for our country. Unfortunately, that’s the direction this administration is leading us."

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