Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
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this is what a feminist looks like

Features
The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

News
Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Departments
Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

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Teresa Stern is writing a book on the new civil rights movement that inclues oral histories of young activits.


Affirmative Action on Trial
by Teresa Stern


In April, the Supreme Court begins deliberating a case that could have a dramatic impact on the future of racial integration in America’s colleges and universities, and the decision the court will hand down by summer may cause an upheaval not only in admissions policies but in educational goals at public and the vast majority of private colleges, universities, and graduate schools that receive federal funding.
And it may shut down hope for millions of young Americans.

The case, charging the University of Michigan (UM) with "reverse discrimination” for using race as a factor in admissions, could overturn a widespread policy that was legally established in 1978. The Supreme Court's Bakke decision that year held that while a quota system was unconstitutional, it was lawful to take race into account in admissions. President Bush stated on January 15 that he believed the University of Michigan was using a quota system for preferential admissions based on race.

A lightning rod for controversy over integration and how to achieve it, the UM case has revealed divisions even within President Bush’s inner circle. Just after the Bush administration filed a brief against the university’s affirmative action process, Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN that he remained a "strong proponent of affirmative action." National Security Advisor Condoleezza. Rice, Bush’s other African-American Cabinet member, said in an NBC interview that she had benefited from affirmative action during her career at Stanford University.

Lee Bollinger, president of the University of Michigan at the time of the filings, called this battle "the most important civil rights issue since Brown v. Board of Education." If the Supreme Court were to overturn affirmative action, he added, it would be "an American tragedy."

The Lawsuits against Michigan
The Supreme Court will actually consider two cases together: that of Jennifer Gratz, a white applicant who was rejected by the UM undergraduate school, and Barbara Grutter, a disappointed white applicant to the UM law school. Each plaintiff individually sued the school in 1997, claiming that she would have been admitted if UM's race-sensitive affirmative action policy had not instead accepted "less-qualified" minority applicants.

The ultra-conservative Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is paying for the legal challenges of the two women. Since 1989, CIR has mounted numerous legal actions against policies and practices designed to equalize opportunity for not only minorities, but also women. (One recent CIR initiative defends a group of white residents in Farmingville, Long Island who are trying to rid their community of Latino immigrants they say are illegal; another attempts to block the University of Minnesota’s payments to female faculty members in settlement of a salary discrimination suit.)

Going even further than President Bush, CIR and other conservative organizations have indicated that their next strategy will be to challenge the constitutionality of percentage plans like the one currently used in Texas on the basis that they, too, amount to a racial quota system. (The Texas plan promises any student in the top 10 percent of the graduating class in any Texas high school a place in the state's higher education system, regardless of race.)

"The anti-affirmative action camp is trying to resegregate American higher education and American society as a whole," said Miranda Massie, the lead attorney for minority students who joined the Michigan cases as codefendants two years ago. "That's what these cases are about."

Although Jennifer Gratz charges that she was passed up in favor of a less-qualified applicant from a minority group, the fact is that in 1995, the year she applied, over 1,400 students in her peer group (whites and Asians) with test scores and grades lower than hers-- but still strong enough to meet the school's undergraduate academic requirements--were admitted. (Considered "overrepresented minorities," most Asians and Asian Americans generally do not benefit from affirmative action in university admissions.)

More >>


Magazine Exclusive

* Statement by President Bush, January 15, 2003, opposing Michigan's policy
*
University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman: from public responses, January 15 & 16, 2003
* Read about how students are defending affirmative action.

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