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Abstract

The University of Michigan has long been a place of important discussions about civil and human rights. On the steps of the Michigan Student Union, only a few paces from the Law School, lies an inconspicuous marker where then-President John F. Kennedy, Jr. dedicated the United States Peace Core. During the Vietnam War, the University played host to significant protests that changed how we think about war and its consequences. Most recently, the University litigated a series of Supreme Court cases that have helped define the role of educational institutions in the quest for equality. This role promises to continue given the passage of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (“MCRI”). I decided to study law at the University of Michigan partly due to its past and continuing presence in civil rights debates, but I must admit that I have been disappointed. As I listened to University President Mary Sue Coleman’s speech regarding the MCRI’s adoption by Michigan voters, I didn’t experience what I had hoped to feel: a religious fervor against injustice, a deep-seeded anger, a belief that what had happened was wrong. Even when I hear people talk about “building the new civil rights movement,” I am left asking, “What movement?” As I reflect on my responses, I am frightened and wonder what has gone so wrong with the conversation about diversity, affirmative action, and equality that the concepts seem so less meaningful than they once did.