Affirmative Action

Updated June 29, 2023

University Statement

To all members of the campus community,

The University of Michigan remains steadfast in its commitment to fostering a diverse educational environment for our students and scholars, which is essential to our core mission of academic excellence. Today as university leaders, we recommit ourselves to this value. 

Although the U-M is not directly affected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to significantly narrow how race can be considered in admissions policies, we are deeply disheartened by the court’s ruling.

We remain firmly convinced that racial diversity is one of the many important components of a broadly diverse student body and an intellectually and culturally rich campus community. We believe racial diversity benefits the exchange and development of ideas by increasing students’ variety of perspectives, promoting cross-racial understanding and dispelling racial stereotypes. It helps prepare students to be leaders in a global marketplace and increasingly multicultural society. This belief is supported by a robust body of social science and educational research evidence. 

During the Grutter (2003) case, U-M fought to consider race in a narrowly tailored manner that is attentive to the distinctive characteristics of individual applicants. Despite this victory, the state of Michigan passed in 2006 a constitutional amendment, Proposal 2, restricting public universities from considering race in admissions decisions. As a result, U-M has been operating for the past 17 years without considering race in its admissions policies. 

The ruling will not change our values or efforts to become a more diverse university community.

U-M’s experiences with Proposal 2 can be instructive to other institutions of higher education. In continued efforts to cultivate and support a diverse student body, the university made significant commitments to practices, policies and procedures focused on race-neutral factors. These considerable efforts—buoyed by a large, campuswide diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan initiative — have resulted in noteworthy diversity strides in the representation of more socio-economically disadvantaged students and of some racial/ethnic communities. 

At the same time, U-M’s experiences demonstrate what research has now shown clearly — that it is much more difficult to achieve racial diversity in the student body using only race-neutral methods than by including race in the admissions process in a narrowly-tailored manner. Proposal 2 had disproportionate, negative impacts on the most underrepresented communities; race-neutral policies have been much less successful in significantly increasing enrollments of Black and Native American students. 

In the face of these challenges, we persist. We strive to create and support an educational community of diverse voices with a range of experiences. U-M’s experiences with Proposal 2 have taught us that achieving a more diverse student body in an unequal K-12 education system—racially, socioeconomically, among other areas—requires dedicating significant attention and effort to developing legally-permissible policies, practices, procedures and programs.

U-M’s recent diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan, DEI 1.0, is an example of an institution-wide effort that resulted in significant progress, and successful and promising models for enhancing diversity. We also saw areas where we made less progress, and lessons learned about where we need to focus more. As we build on our progress and learning in our next strategic plan, DEI 2.0, we will continue to leverage innovative strategies with the greatest promise for achieving increased and abundant representation of the communities that make up our state, nation and global society. 

We still wholeheartedly believe our dedication to academic excellence for the public good is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

We know we have much more work to do to live up to our ideals of a broadly diverse learning community. The court’s decision makes this work more urgent than ever. 

By doing this work, U-M has an opportunity once again to serve higher education more broadly, through sharing our lessons learned on how to achieve a more racially and otherwise diverse student body within the legal parameters newly announced by the court. 

Once again, we have an opportunity to live up to our goals of being leaders and best.


Santa J. Ono 

Laurie K. McCauley 
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Statements from additional university leaders: 

 U-M’s historical leadership role in support of the use of race in college admissions

The University of Michigan for years considered many different diversity factors, including race, in its individualized consideration of applicants.

The university has twice defended affirmative action policies before the Supreme Court in 2003,  but stopped using racial preferences in admissions in 2006 when 58 percent of Michigan voters approved Proposal 2 and amended the state’s constitution to prohibit the consideration of race in government hiring and university admissions.

Harvard Amicus Brief

Fisher Amicus Brief

Proposal 2 was adopted by Michigan voters on November 7, 2006, and took effect in late December of that year. It amended 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.

More information about Prop 2

University Record Articles 

University files amicus brief in support of Harvard, UNC

Supreme Court relied heavily on research and amici

University makes its case before the Supreme Court

Supreme Court to hear admission lawsuits in spring 2003

What is the university doing to enhance undergraduate student diversity through policies and practices, as well as efforts such as scholarship programs, outreach and engagement, etc., in legally permissible ways?

Our holistic application review process considers all aspects of a student record and experience — we do not admit applicants solely on the basis of any single criterion. We value the whole record — excellent grades in rigorous courses; top ACT/SAT scores, if provided; participation in extracurricular activities; professional arts training; and evidence of leadership, awards, and service.

The University of Michigan tailors the way that we interact with high schools across the state of Michigan and the country based on the needs of the high school and the student population.

The university maintains a commitment to making a U-M education affordable, especially for Michigan residents, and has worked in recent years to minimize tuition increases and allocate additional financial aid at a pace higher than tuition increases.

We conduct year-round recruiting and outreach campaigns to identify and contact talented students from across the country. Our efforts include attending recruiting fairs in areas with substantial populations of students from historically underrepresented communities; hosting workshops for high-school counselors; maintaining an office in Detroit to recruit local high school students; coordinating campus visits for high school students; enlisting current students to contact admitted students and encouraging them to enroll; and hosting events for admitted students.

The university also has built pipelines to underserved communities through the Center for Educational Outreach which operates a broad range of programs designed to promote academic achievement in Michigan’s elementary, middle and high schools, and to promote interest in higher education.

In 2016, the university launched its first campus-wide diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plan (DEI 1.0), which included a focus on enhancing demographic diversity in our campus community. This effort included institutional commitments through funding and staff resources to programs aimed at diversifying the study body through focus on low and moderate income students (American Talent Initiative, Go Blue Guarantee), first-generation students (Kessler Scholars), and students from under-resourced communities (Wolverine Pathways), among others. These programs have made non-incremental impacts in enhancing student diversity at U-M.

We are building on the progress and lessons learned through DEI 1.0 currently as we prepare to launch a second phase of this initiative, DEI 2.0, in fall 2023.

How many employees are devoted to this mission?

Our enrollment teams, which include undergraduate and graduate recruitment and admissions professionals, are leading the charge to create and support an educational community of diverse voices with a range of experiences from the state, nation, and world. In addition to this, as a part of an institutional commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, U-M employees, across all three campuses and our academic medical center, are working towards improving the diversity of the campus community.

What is the budget for diversity outreach?

As this is part of our overall institutional mission, there is not a specific budget set aside for diversity outreach and recruitment. Recruiting a diverse class, in all forms, is built into everything we do. 

How difficult has it been to increase diversity without affirmative action, etc?

As was shared in the Amicus Brief the university filed in support of the current Harvard and UNC cases: “The University of Michigan is firmly convinced of the educational benefits of broad student-body diversity, including racial and ethnic diversity; and it has a longstanding commitment to achieving broad-based diversity across the full range of candidates’ characteristics and life experiences. But 15 years into the University’s involuntary experiment with race-neutral admissions, many U-M colleges and schools have experienced a substantial drop in racial and ethnic diversity, despite persistent and vigorous race-neutral efforts—including extensive efforts to consider socioeconomic status in admission and recruiting. That loss of racial and ethnic diversity undermines the University’s efforts to expose students to a broad diversity of perspectives, to dispel racial stereotypes, and to promote broad classroom participation by reducing feelings of racial isolation. The University’s 15-year-long experiment in race neutral admissions thus is a cautionary tale that underscores the compelling need for selective universities to be able to consider race as one of many background factors about applicants.”

U-M’s experiences are consistent with social science and educational research demonstrating that race-neutral policies alone are insufficient for achieving racial diversity. This research indicates that institutions benefit most from using a variety of methods to foster diversity, including the consideration of race.

Legacy admissions are formal and informal practices where schools give additional consideration to college applicants with a parent or other ancestor who’s an alumnus. How does U-M consider legacy in the admissions process?

Legacy status is not considered in the admissions process but does serve as context – outside of the admissions review – in understanding a student’s interest.

Forward thinking question: Where does the university see in the next 10-20 years as it relates to the enrollment of underrepresented racial minorities?

The University’s commitment to academic excellence for the public good  is inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  This is a value we hold now and one that will ground our work in the future.

Over the years since Proposal 2 was passed in 2006 which restricted the use of race in admissions and hiring, the university has dedicated significant attention and effort to developing new strategies and legally-permissible policies, practices, procedures and programs. We have invested in broad-scale DEI strategic planning, drawing on research and expertise across our campus units, which has yielded successful and promising approaches for diversifying our community.  By continuing to develop and leverage these innovative approaches for enhancing diversity, we are confident that it will result in more abundant representation of the diverse communities that make up our state, nation, and global community.

We also will continue to lead and serve within the higher education community more broadly by advocating for educational access and the value of diversity through our scholarship, leadership, and policy engagement.