- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2003

ANN ARBOR, Mich. Carl Cohen, from his home here, watches the national furor over the University of Michigan's race-based admissions policy and realizes he may be the man who prompts vast change.
The 100 pages of documents he obtained from the university in 1996 through a Freedom of Information Act request is the crux of a Supreme Court case that has sparked a national debate on affirmative action.
"When I got this stuff from the university, some of it was shockingly blatant racial discrimination," says Mr. Cohen, 72, a philosophy professor at the Big 10 school and past president of Michigan's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
He adds proudly: "These are the same documents that are before the Supreme Court. It was really important that it be known that this was how they were admitting students."
One of the most stunning revelations, the one that turned him from a gadfly into a crusader, was the point system used. The university's admissions policy awards applicants 12 points for a perfect SAT score, but 20 points for simply being a non-Asian minority. About 100 points on a 150-point scale are needed for admission.
The Florida native wrote a book on the subject in 1995, "Naked Racial Preference: The Case Against Affirmative Action," in which he argued that "racial preference is dynamite."
His real mission began as the fruits of his information request began to trickle in. Mr. Cohen realized that the very practice he attacked in his book was occurring at the university where he began teaching in 1995.
He wrote a report on his findings in the documents and sent it to the president of the University of Michigan.
He received no response.
He sent the report to each member of the university's board of regents.
Again, no response.
"The [regents] were all good people, and I knew some of them from being active in the local Democratic Party with them," said Mr. Cohen. "But this was something they were obviously uncomfortable with."
The report went nowhere until the press got hold of it.
"He really started the ball rolling," said Curt Levey, director of legal and public affairs for the Center for Individual Rights, which eventually provided the legal counsel for plaintiffs challenging the University of Michigan's admissions policy.
"It is fair to say that this would not have happened without him."
In the case before the high court, three white students claim they were denied admission to the university's undergraduate and law programs in favor of less-qualified minority applicants. The court is expected to hear the case in the spring.
Once Mr. Levey's group became involved, the assaults on the university's policy and on Mr. Cohen began.
Protesters at the University of Michigan, some of them Mr. Cohen's students, continue to demonstrate.
He has been called racist for his views, despite his left-wing credentials. In addition to his ACLU affiliation, he is a one-time board member of Washtenaw County's Democratic Party.
Mr. Cohen says he has not strayed from his Democratic roots and is still a liberal, "although I have lost a little of my enthusiasm for the party and now consider myself more of an independent."
Mr. Cohen is better known around Ann Arbor as an iconoclast.
"He's a lone ranger," said Kary Moss, executive director of the Michigan ACLU. "His stance is not consistent at all with that of the ACLU of Michigan. I can't begin to guess what motivates him."
Mr. Cohen said he has had no trouble from his colleagues at the university, that the administration has treated him fine, and that he still enjoys spirited badinage over the issue with both students and his fellow professors.
"The University of Michigan is a wonderful place with wonderful people," he said. "And my situation is extremely comfortable. People know that my energy is devoted to the university."
Officials and several professors at the University of Michigan did not return calls about Mr. Cohen last week.

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