In WSJ, A Case for Accreditors to Keep Out of Racial Preferences

Gail Heriot

  • Article
  • October 22, 2015

Gail Heriot, professor of law at the University of San Diego, a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and NAS Board of Directors member, has an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal (“Why Aren’t There More Black Scientists?”) calling on Congress to prohibit educational accreditors from requiring colleges and universities to enact racial preferences in the name of “student-body diversity.”

She writes:

Numerous studies—as I explain in a recent report for the Heritage Foundation—show that the supposed beneficiaries of affirmative action are less likely to go on to high-prestige careers than otherwise-identical students who attend schools where their entering academic credentials put them in the middle of the class or higher. In other words, encouraging black students to attend schools where their entering credentials place them near the bottom of the class has resulted in fewer black physicians, engineers, scientists, lawyers and professors than would otherwise be the case.

The problem is not that these students don’t have what it takes to succeed academically. “Many do,” Heriot writes, “as demonstrated by the fact that students with identical entering academic credentials attending somewhat less competitive schools persevere in their quest for a science or engineering degree and ultimately succeed.” Instead it’s what Richard Sander and others have called the “mismatch effect,” which Heriot explains as taking on “too much, too soon given their level of academic preparation.”

Heriot is asking Senator Lamar Alexander and Reps. John Kline and Virginia Foxx, who are involved in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, to help by stopping racial preferences at the accreditation level.

NAS is sending a copy of Gail Heriot’s report (A "Dubious Expediency": How Race-Preferential Admissions Policies on Campus Hurt Minority Students) to all NAS members this month. It is a powerful new synthesis of the data on admissions policies and their real effects on students. The National Association of Scholars continues to oppose the practice of racial preferences in colleges and universities, and have joined a friend-of-the-court brief in the next hearing of the Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court case. That case will seek to answer whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits the consideration of race in undergraduate admissions decisions.

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