On February 27, 2014, NAS board member Gail Heriot debated the motion, "Affirmative Action on Campus Does More Harm Than Good" on Intelligence Squared, a video debate forum on National Public Radio. Hariot is a Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law and a comissioner for the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. She has written extensively on affirmative action and appeared before various government bodies to speak on the issue. The National Association of Scholars has also published numerous articles opposing race-based affirmative action, which can be read here.
At the outset of the debate, Heriot argued,
Race preferential admissions policies are doing far more harm than good. The very large preferences employed at universities are producing fewer—not more—black scientists, black engineers, and black medical doctors . . . We are talking epic policy failure. There are lots of ways to measure talent, but race is not one of them . . . We would have a lot more minority students graduating with [degrees in science and engineering] if we maintained race-neutral admissions policies.
Hariot's partner, Richard Sander, is a Professor of Law at UCLA’s School of Law and has been working on questions of social and economic inequality for almost the entirety of his career. In 2005, he published the first broad analysis of the effects of racial preferences in legal education, and in 2012, he co-authored Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It with Stuart Taylor.
During the second half of the debate, Sander reasoned,
The research overwhelmingly shows direct negative effects from large-scale [racial] preferences . . . For example, when the University of California implemented race-neutral policies before Prop 209, we saw this really interesting jump in the takeup rate of black and Hispanic students admitted to Berkeley and UCLA and some of the other elite campuses. Now, why would the enrollment rate of accepted students jump? . . . a plausible explanation is that these students found it really attractive to attend a school where neither they nor anyone else thinks that they were admitted with a racial preference.”
Audience members were asked to share their perspectives of the issue both before and after the debate.
Results appeared as follows:
61% voted the same way in BOTH pre- and post-debate votes (16% voted FOR twice, 38% voted AGAINST twice, 6% voted UNDECIDED twice). 39% changed their minds (5% voted FOR then changed to AGAINST, 1% voted FOR then changed to UNDECIDED, 7% voted AGAINST then changed to FOR, 3% voted AGAINST then changed to UNDECIDED, 14% voted UNDECIDED then changed to FOR, 10% voted UNDECIDED then changed to AGAINST)
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You may also watch the video of the entire debate on Intelligence Squared.
Image: Pixabay, Public Domain