Racial Preferences’ Illusory Benefit

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Colleges are widely applying racial preferences to the apparent benefit of no one. “After about a decade, racial preferences are back on the Supreme Court docket,” Gail Heriot of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights said at a National Association of Scholars (NAS) conference in Manhattan last weekend.

“In 2003, the Supreme Court held that the University of Michigan’s law school could substantially relax its admissions standards in order to admit a ‘critical mass’ of African-American and Hispanic students,” Heriot wrote in an article which appears in National Affairs, a quarterly journal. “Many observers interpreted that decision — Grutter v. Bollinger — as an open-ended embrace of affirmative action.”

Moreover, “Many schools read Grutter as a blanket Affirmative Action green light,” Heriot said at the NAS conference. Nevertheless, the University of Texas, which is currently being sued over its racial preferences policy before the Supreme Court, was “more aggressive than Grutter,” Heriot claimed at the NAS meeting. The UT system applied racial preferences, “not just in the student body but in the classroom,” Heriot averred.

As Heriot, a law professor at the University of San Diego, observed, the University of Texas is not the only state university system to adopt such a blanket policy. Using Freedom of Information Act requests, Althea Nagai of the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) conducted a study of the practice at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan.

“At both of these institutions, blacks were admitted at a higher rate than whites even though whites score higher,” Nagai said at the NAS meeting at the Harvard Club last Friday. The CEO study found a 200-point gap in SAT scores at the University of Michigan and a 150-point spread at the University of Wisconsin.

Less strikingly, perhaps, there is a “half a point gap in grades as well,” Nagai notes. Nevertheless, at the other end of the system, there are corresponding “gaps in graduation rates and probation levels,” Nagai noted.

It is not surprising that the schools were less than cooperative with the CEO. “Usually it takes a year to sift through admissions data gleaned from Freedom of Information Act requests,” Nagai said. “At the University of Wisconsin it took a ten-year legal battle.”

In California, before Ballot Proposition 209 effectively abolished racial preferences in state university admissions, Asians, no matter their achievements, faced a ceiling in gaining admission to California universities. “At the nine University of California campuses, before 209, the student body was 22 percent Asian,” said Ward Connerly, who served on the California Board of Regents. “After 209, they are 40 percent Asian.”

He added, “I am reminded of something Ronald Reagan said as governor: ‘I don’t care if every seat is filled by Asians if they have earned the right to be there.’”


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.


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