Following Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a Michigan ban on affirmative action, Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, announced he will reintroduce similar legislation in the state Legislature.
Grothman, who is running for Congress, praised the Supreme Court’s 6-2 ruling while raising his own concerns with affirmative action policies in Wisconsin. He said he will seek a constitutional amendment to ban affirmative action in the state’s public colleges and universities.
“Affirmative action puts a cloud over the accomplishments of any person of color,” Grothman said. “One can’t help but think: Did this person get into medical school because they got high MCAT scores or did they get into medical school because of [their race]?”
The move comes after the Project on Fair Representation announced it is seeking plaintiffs to sue the University of Wisconsin for its affirmative action policies, which UW officials have defended as a holistic look at applicants.
Grothman’s amendment would require approval from two consecutive sessions of the Legislature and then approval from voters in a statewide referendum.
Grothman, who is seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, has proposed similar legislation in the past, but his proposals did not gain traction with fellow lawmakers.
Linda Hoskins, president of the NAACP Madison chapter, said affirmative action is necessary in Wisconsin because of the extreme racial disparities people of color must overcome for a better life.
A recent report from the Casey Foundation ranked Wisconsin the worst state in the nation for providing opportunities to Black children. The report also found Black children in Wisconsin face overwhelming obstacles in income mobility.
Hoskins said these practices are necessary due to the inequality and lack of opportunities for people of color.
“If affirmative action wasn’t there, many young people of color wouldn’t stand a chance,” Hoskins said. “The playing ground is not fair and equal.”
Grothman said affirmative action does not help solve racial disparities in Wisconsin and instead proposed to address issues by improving schools and cutting funding to “generous welfare programs” to close Wisconsin’s racial gap, as well as focusing on the traditional nuclear family.
The 2013 Supreme Court case Fisher vs. University of Texas–Austin was a 7-1 decision which ruled that it is constitutional for public institutions and universities to consider race during admissions decisions after “strict scrutiny” to ensure academic demonstration and race-neutral factors must be given precedence.
Democrat Mary Burke, who will likely face Gov. Scott Walker in November, announced she would not change the UW admissions process if she wins, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Given the daunting challenges facing minority students in Wisconsin, this is not the time to undo college admissions policies that provide greater opportunity to students,” Burke said. “As a state we value fairness, opportunity, access to higher education and diversity — continuing to ensure our campuses reflect those values is central to growing our economy.”