Racial Preferences Hurt Minorities

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Race-based college admission preferences actually hurt minority applicants, three members of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission allege. “There is a lot of research that shows that race-based admissions are backfiring,” one of the commissioners, Gail Heriot, said at the August 14, 2012 bloggers’ briefing at the Heritage Foundation.

Heriot signed onto an amicus brief in support of Abigail Noel Fisher in the case of Fisher v. the University of Texas that the U. S. Supreme Court will examine in October.  Heriot was joined in the brief by co-commissioners Todd Gaziano and Peter Kirsanow. Fisher alleges that she was squeezed out of a slot at UT Austin to make way for candidates admitted under race-based preferences.

Gaziano also joined Heriot at the Heritage Foundation, where he is a scholar.  “Who is losing out?” Gaziano asked.

The amicus brief they signed onto was written by their counsel of record—Anthony T. Caso of the Chapman University School of Law. Caso, in the brief, shows some of the evidence that the commissioners relied upon, data which the “experts” interviewed by media outlets covering the story rarely offer, a factual treasure trove of academic studies that goes back several decades.

For example:“The grades earned by African-American students at the [elite schools we studied] often reflect their struggles to succeed academically in highly competitive academic settings,” former college presidents William G. Bowen and Derek Bok wrote in their pro-affirmative action book Shape of the River. Conversely, at the Heritage bloggers’ briefing, Heriot asserted that “Students admitted to MIT on preferences might do better elsewhere.”

Indeed, in their amicus brief, Caso shows that at historically black colleges and universities, “With only 20 % of total black enrollment, these schools were producing 40% of the black students graduating with natural science degrees, according to the National Science Foundation. These same students were frequently going on to earn Ph.D.s from non-HBCUs. The National  Science Foundation reported, for example, that 36% of the blacks who earned an engineering doctorate between 1986 and 1988 received their undergraduate degree from an HBCU.”

Flashing forward, Caso notes that “More recently, Duke University economists Peter Arcidiacono and Esteban Aucejo and Duke sociologist Ken Spenner found evidence supporting the mismatch thesis when researching the major choices of undergraduates enrolling at Duke in fall 2001 and 2002.”

For instance, “they found black undergraduates were much less likely to persist with an initial ambition of majoring in engineering, the natural sciences or economics than white students.”  Specifically, “54% of black males switched out of these majors, whereas only 6% of white males did.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.

If you would like to comment on this article, e-mail mal.kline@academia.org.