In today's Pope Center piece, Notre Dame philosophy professor James Sterba gives his counter-arguments to the case I made against enshrining "socio-economic diversity" as another goal for elite colleges to attain through admissions preferences. We both participated in a forum back in September at Pomona College where that was the topic. I presented my case against that in a piece we published in October. Professor Sterba responds and I respond to him. I remain convinced that "affirmative action" -- whether to achieve "better racial balance" or to get more students from poorer families into top schools, has minimal and mostly imaginary benefits that come at substantial cost.
Judging by the UCal Berkeley administration's nuke 'em reaction, you might have thought that the Ku Klux Klan had staged a rally on campus, rather than a symbolic bake sale by college Republicans protesting the university's race-based admissions policies. Mind you, I didn't expect that the school's "diversity" machine would be exactly thrilled by the sale of differently-priced cupcakes, calculated to reflect the extent to which some students' admissions were weighted higher according to racial or ethnic classifications. But for Pete's sake, why did they send in the 101st airborne? Bob Weissberg has an interesting take on the whole mess in this article over at Minding the Campus.
About a month ago, Chronicle Review ran an article purporting to give a new and more powerful argument why top colleges and universities should have “affirmative action” policies. In today’s Pope Center piece, I comment on that article. It’s not the least persuasive, but without intending to do so opens up discussion of the ways colleges could advance toward the author’s goal of “helping all of us.”
Competitive Enterprise Institute attorney Hans Bader has some interesting commentary on last week's Sixth Circuit ruling invalidating Michigan's voter-approved Civil Rights Initiative. A divided panel, as I reported here last week, ruled that MCI "harmed minorities" because it violated the Equal Protection clause of the US Constitution. But as Bader demonstrates, the only way to construe the appeals court's bizarre logic is to conclude that Equal Protection requires treating people UNequally. A cynic might think that the court intended to reach its result, one way or another. Hopefully, the US Supreme Court will review the case and respect the decision of Michigan's voters.
A divided three-judge panel of the 6th Federal Appeals Circuit has struck down Michigan's voter-approved constitutional amendment banning the consideration of race or sex in college admissions decisions. I haven't had the opportunity to parse the specific details of the constitutional basis on which the court reached this conclusion, only that Propostiion 2, as it was known as a ballot initiative, harms minority applicants. The next step, if there is one, will be an appeal to the full bench of the 6th circuit or to the US Supreme Court. The decision comes at a time when the California Legislature is considering a law which would re-introduce racial quotas into the admissions process there, in direct conflict with the provisions of Proposition 209. This you'll recall, was also a voter-approved initiative banning such preferences. Our California affiliate, as noted here, is vigorously opposing this seemingly back-door maneuver. Ward Connerly, a tireless opponent of racial preferences and supporter of both ballot initiatives, gets it right when says that it's becoming impossible for the people to make their own collective decisions in these matters, due to the arbitrary intervention of the courts. Let's hope that an appeal is not long in coming.
Our friend Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity notes at Phi Beta Cons that a full US Fifth Circuit Appeals court has upheld the ruling of a three-judge panel in favor of the "top ten per cent" admissions policies adopted for state institutions in Texas. You can also read about it here at Inside Higher Education.
In this eye-popping Minding the Campus essay, KC Johnson writes about a recent federally-funded conference that’s as clear a case of wasteful special interest group spending as you’ll ever find. I doubt that there is any constitutional justification for the National Science Foundation at all, but certainly not for it to spend tax dollars on a conference devoted to how minority political science professors can get tenure.
The Chronicle has an article by Arthur Coleman and Scott Palmer (both lawyers who worked in the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights) entitled "No Time for Complacency on Racial Diversity." George Leef of the Pope Center sent off a letter in reply, arguing that we ought to be complacent about racial diversity, as well as diversity of all other kinds.
The day simply has to be coming when the issue of race in college admissions or faculty hiring generates no new litigation "diversity" policies, because everyone is finally one the same page: we all agree that this is what the law says, and this is what we'll do in shaping our institutional policies. It hasn't come yet.
We are excited to announce that Arizonans have approved Prop. 107, a ballot initiative that prohibits racial preferences in the state’s public institutions, including public colleges and universities. This is a great victory for racial equality and merit-based higher education, and NAS is proud to have played a part. Read NAS's argument in favor of Prop. 107.
In today's Pope Center piece, I respond to a recent NYT article by Richard Kahlenberg in which he argues against legacy preferences in college admissions. I think the case against legacy preferences is sound. I part company with him, however, on how to remedy the situation (I don't favor either legislation or litigation) and argue that his attempt at distinguishing legacy preferences from racial preferences (which he doesn't criticize, I suspect because to do so would cost him powerful allies) is a failure.
I could be wrong, but in the wake of all the mudwrestling that's followed the NAACP's recent branding of Tea Partiers as racists, I think that the ideological fulcrum of the "diversity" debate has significantly shifted ground. For once, the response by public figures has been direct and emphatic, instead of the usual backpedaling after some vague, apologetic mumbling about the need to "include" all groups, the value of a diverse work force or the wish to avoid offending anyone, etc., etc., etc. The public rejection of the NAACP's allegations, moreover, has been bi-partisan, including prominent Republicans such as Sarah Palin and no less than Vice President Biden and President Obama on the Democratic side of the aisle. Hopefully, this means that absurd or silly allegations of racism will no longer compel politicans and bureaucrats to jump through the hoop as they've done so frequently in the past. Especially encouraging, though, is this piece by Virgina Democrat James Webb in today's Wall Street Journal. Webb argues that although "diversity" policies had their origins in the laudable and necessary efforts to redress the unique injustices suffered by black Americans, they have long since become obsessed with skin color or ethnic background, often with unconcealed hostility toward whites. Thus, newly arrived immigrants often benefit from these policies, even though their own experiences don't remotely resemble those of blacks. It doesn't stop there either, since in many academic institutions, "diversity" and "inclusiveness" now extend to ever -expanding categories of sexuality, life experiences or those with physical disabilities. A particularly hard sell for me has always been affirmative action for "women" within the diversity rubric, as though the largely white, middle-class feminist movement could claim grievances comparable to those suffered historically by blacks. Yet many academic job postings routinely specify that "women and ethnic or racial minorities are especially encouraged to apply." That doesn't compute. Anyway, Webb says it's now time to end racial preferences, stop discriminating against whites, and simply treat everyone equally under the law. Amen.
Jennifer Gratz, plaintiff in Gratz v. Bollinger in 2003, testified in court last week against AB 2047, a new bill that if passed, will overturn Proposition 209 and allow racial preferences in California university admissions. When asked, "If you had to bet your $5 on which kid was going to be more successful...one kid white, one kid of color, which kid do you think you should bet on?" she replied, "I wouldn't bet on either kid based on their race, I would look at the kid as a whole." Her interviewer pressed, "I regrettably come to the conclusion that race does still matter in terms of the ability of young people to succeed," to which Gratz answered, "I think the question should be: how do we get to the point, then, where it does not matter? And the government sticking its nose in the issue of race and determining based on someone's race who gets into a university, and picking and choosing winners and losers based on skin color, does not get us there." Watch the exchange in the 5-minute video below (via ACRI):
In this week's Pope Center Clarion Call, Roger Clegg addresses the question of discrimination against Asian students. Of course, selective colleges don't say, "We're against those geeky, overly studious Asian kids. Let 'em go somewhere else!" Rather, they just don't want to have "too many" of them, so as to have enough room for all the "under-represented" groups, whose students are presumed to add so much interest to the student body. The result is the same, though: some students are rejected on account of their ancestry.
The mania over "diversity" (that is, preferences for certain people whose ancestry puts them into an "underrepresented" category) has swept through most of American higher education. It's bad enough when, say, English departments fret that they aren't adequately "modeling diversity," but far more worrisome when medical schools do. In this Pope Center article today, I write about this disturbing phenomenon.
Alana Goodman, a student at the University of Massachusetts, has published an excellent article, "Institutionalized Racism in Student Government," in the Collegian, the schoool's student newspaper. Here's an excerpt:
As we prepare to swear in our elected representatives to the SGA Senate next week, UMass students should be aware that 13 percent of our SGA Senators will not have even competed in Tuesday’s elections. Instead, they will be appointed to their positions before the election results even come in, solely on the basis of skin color. This portion of the Senate is appointed by a registered student organization (RSO) called the African American, Latino, Asian American, and Native American (ALANA) Caucus (no relation to this columnist). Only minority students who fit one of those four racial categories– or other students who the Caucus approves as “minority allies”– are considered eligible for these Senate seats. [...] This practice has been going on for years, and in addition to its sleaziness it’s also illegal.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights has just issued a major report, The Benefits of Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Elementary and Secondary Education. (Available in PDF here.) The Commission reached a startling conclusion: "there is little evidence that racial and ethnic diversity in elementary and secondary schools results in significant improvement in academic performance."