Tag Archives: discrimination

College Students Now–the Good and the Bad

First, the good news:  My undergraduate students here at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, are quite literate, contrary to all the bad press and fears. Every week I give them a 20-minute writing assignment in class, the sole preparation for which is having done the week’s homework.  Turns out they write pretty well; arguably, in some cases, better than with at-home papers, which may cause them more stress.  This despite the fact that whenever I enter the room at the beginning of class, most of them are on their iPhones or otherwise engaged with electronic devices.

Now the bad news: For about the past week I’ve been taking note of the announcements that come to me via email from the university.  These relate predominantly to events in my particular areas of interest : Latin American studies;  languages and literatures; women’s studies – now renamed, like most such programs throughout the country,  Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, which at least makes their focus clear, in case anyone was wondering.  But I also receive occasional emails about  university-wide special events, as well as Five-College events (since UMass Amherst is part of the Five College Consortium), though these latter are often related to the above fields.

Below is a listing of the typical items that appeared in my email in the past week or so –representative of the majority of announcements I receive week after week.

  1. The Chancellor of UMass Amherst announces that the newly-created post of Assistant Provost for Diversity has been filled.
  2. The Center for Latin America, Caribbean and Latino Studies announces a conference later this month on the “Intersection of Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Nation in Colombia, Brazil and Cuba.”  (I received seven separate announcements of this event over the past couple of days)
  3. A Five College Multicultural Theater Conference is taking place, which will address issues of representation, diversity and inclusion in multicultural theater today.
  4. The Five College Women’s Studies Research Center announces a faculty seminar and public talk on Race and Science, offered by a visiting professor of English.
  5. The Center for Public Policy and Administration in conjunction with the Interdisciplinary Studies Institute and a few other departments at UMass are sponsoring a panel discussion by experts from the non-Western Muslim world about the line between free speech and hate speech.  The event is called “Charlie Hebdo Attacks: Is Your Free Speech My Hate Speech?”
  6. The CLACLS (see # 2 above) is sponsoring a lecture and workshop on “The Politics of Cultura [sic] in a Minority Latino/a [sic] Community: What We Can Learn from Public Pedagogies of Food, Fun, and Fiestas,” as part of their year-long series “Re-imagining Latin@[sic] Studies in Higher Education.”
  7.  A talk by a feminist and reproductive rights activist,  called “Abortion in our hands: Clandestine Abortion Doulas’s Network in Argentina” – sponsored by WGSS, CLACLS, Social Thought and Political Economy (these at UMass), and the Third World Studies Program at Hampshire College
  8. The Center for Teaching & Faculty Development announces two remaining events in its Diversity & Teaching Series:  “Teaching Difference: A Faculty Panel,” and “Strategies to Engage And Sustain the Diverse Classroom”
  9. Finally – surprise! — Charles Krauthammer will be giving a talk here in about ten days, sponsored by the UMass College Republicans.

What rarely crosses my path are announcements designed to actually help students with their academic work as final exams/papers approach, or to appeal to their imagination and intellect in areas not related to the overarching agenda of “social justice” and “diversity.”  There are, however, many end-of- semester events designed for one or another identity group.  I’ve been noticing that these don’t clarify if they’re open to the public, or only to the particular identities being celebrated.

As for the actual work going on in many humanities courses, despite my pleasure in noting that many of my students can write decently, I also know that our academic standards have declined in terms of what is expected and demanded of our students (a problem that begins well before they arrive at the university, as evidenced by the striking fragility of their general level of knowledge).  Do literature courses these days assign students eight or so novels to read over the semester, as we certainly used to do?  My own experience is that students do watch films (an ever greater part of our curricula), yes, but are less likely to do assigned readings, though these rarely amount to more than perhaps a few dozen pages per week.

The university provides us with an online resource, Moodle, on which we can place assignments, readings, create discussion groups, post grades, and so on. It also allows faculty to see which students are actually accessing the assigned materials. Of course, we can’t tell how much time they actually spend on the materials, only the date and time that they have clicked on them.  I tell my students that their professors can do this, so that they can be aware of the far greater surveillance they may be subjected to, compared to the past. Despite this, some of them choose to skip much of the material for my course.  If I assign several short readings, some students will only bother with one or two of them. This is how I know they at least initially access and perhaps actually watch films. The difference between their activities reports on readings versus on films is marked.

The faculty groans and moans about the ever-decreasing level of work we can realistically expect of our students; it’s a persistent theme, but we more or less conform.  It seems impossible not to.   I can’t comment on what’s going on in non-humanities courses, where I do not have first-hand experience.

Furthermore, it is a fact that at UMass our semesters have become shorter and shorter (right now we’re at 13 weeks of actual instruction per semester).  And – another sign of the times — many General Education courses have been converted from three to four credits, without a proportional increase in classroom time.  Obviously, the result is fewer courses per college career, though the pretense is that these 4-credit courses are more intense and demanding.  When, a few years ago, I was on a Faculty Senate sub-committee discussing what we should require of professors seeking to make this change, I inquired:  “Why don’t we just demand that our students actually do the work we already assign?” That comment didn’t carry the day.

Still, my sketch of the current scene in my part of the university should in no way be taken as chiming in with the common complaint that we fail to prepare students for employment.  I actually believe an undergraduate liberal arts education is valuable in and of itself, and that the university’s main function is not to be a job-training school.  But if – despite the efforts of individual professors — we don’t even offer a genuinely high quality education, one that goes beyond the current shibboleths for which students actually don’t need to go to college, what can be said to justify our existence?  If we’re instead focused on rhetoric displays related to ersatz politics and the university’s supposed commitment to right the world’s wrongs, well, then, we’re not even doing the job we can reasonably be expected to do, and for which students are paying exorbitantly high prices.  Not to mention that of course we cannot even agree on how to go about improving the world, any more than do politicians who devote their full attention to this!  Instead, pathetically, the university routinely engages in verbal magic –still obsessed with identity politics as indicated by the ceaseless emphasis on terms such as diversity, inclusion, and outreach.

What does all this signify if not a depressing loss of confidence that education is itself of value and doesn’t need transmogrification into something else? No wonder so many students seem to want above all to get through college with as little effort as possible, rather than taking advantage of the extraordinary riches that ought to be available at any university.


 

“Diversity” Is Now Required At UCLA

After rejecting several previous proposals over the past several years, the UCLA faculty has finally succumbed to politically correct pressure from above (Eugene Block, the Chancellor, and other administrators) and below (“progressive” students) and voted to impose a four-unit “diversity” course requirement on all undergraduates. Ironically, the felt necessity for this new course requirement reveals the hollowness of the ubiquitous claims for the effects of diversity on students and on campus culture in general.

By any measure of diversity — both reasonable ones emphasizing a variety of values and experiences and the one actually employed in higher education, limited to race, ethnicity, and increasingly sex and “gender expression” — UCLA is virtually (and virtuously) boiling over with diversity.  But, according to the militant course mandaters, the fact of diversity is not enough. It has failed to teach the right lessons. Those lessons must be affirmatively, vigorously, actually taught — especially to the students who need them most, those who would not voluntarily take an approved (more on that later) diversity-teaching class. “In order to maximize student preparedness for our global society,” states the UCLA Diversity Initiative Committee’s Proposed Diversity Requirement, “we must enhance student awareness, understanding, and acceptance or at least tolerance of difference through socializing experiences and through our pedagogy.” [Emphasis added]

The idea that “we” — the faculty, probably the least diverse group in the country based on values, ideology, religion, etc. — should or even can inculcate “tolerance of difference” through classes (including STEM classes!) is risible. However, tolerance and appreciation of “difference” must be taught, the mandaters insist, because of another manifest failure of university “diversity” in practice — students are still overflowing with prejudice. Because of the failure of diversity’s “socializing experiences” alone, one of the justifications for the new course requirement and one of its four goals stated in the Proposed Diversity Requirement is “to reduce prejudice on campus with regard to difference.”

As Allyson Bach, a “Campus Celebrity” student leader of the pro-requirement effort, explained in a letter to the Daily Bruin, “Fostering student understanding of the histories and narratives of underrepresented communities at UCLA requires more from the university’s curricula. If students are not encouraged in the classroom to further explore critical issues of a global society, then it unfortunately is not surprising that intolerance and bigotry exist on our campus.”

By “encouraged” Ms. Bach of course means “required,” and in a revealing example of progressive logic she goes on to argue that the fact that some students and alumni disagree with her proves that she’s right. That “negativity” about the new requirement, she asserts, “demonstrate the flaws of our undergraduate education if students graduate UCLA with such viewpoints.”

Her emphasis on requiring understanding of “underrepresented communities” indicates that the requirement’s purpose is more political than pedagogical, an indication confirmed by an Expanded Synopsis’s endorsement of pure attitude and behavior modification. It approvingly cites studies that claim a diversity course requirement has “a positive impact on an individual’s racial and ethnic attitudes, pluralistic orientation, openness to diverse viewpoints, citizenship, critical consciousness, social agency, cognitive skills and tendencies, and moral development.” This is “diversity” as pure didacticism.

Students who themselves are usually described as “diverse” are clearly thought to be less in need of this beneficial attitude and behavior modification than others. As the Proposed Diversity Requirement states, “Although the UCLA student body is highly heterogeneous, comprising individuals from varied backgrounds, characteristics, and cultures, many come from more homogenous environments and have little familiarity with those from other histories, traditions, and experiences.”

There can be no doubt that the universe of the un-diverse in need of improved “racial and ethnic attitudes,” a more “pluralistic orientation,” more openness to “diverse viewpoints,” a higher “critical consciousness,” and even more active “social agency” is largely white. All but universally unacknowledged, however, is that whites at UCLA are not only not a majority; they are exactly as “underrepresented” as blacks. According to the most recent UCLA data, 4.4% of the freshmen admitted in 2014 are black, and according to the most recent census data blacks make up 6.6% of California’s population. According to that same data, whites were 26% of admits, but whites, “not Hispanic or Latino,” are 39% of California’s population. Blacks and whites, in short, are equally “underrepresented”: 4.4 is 67% of 6.6; 26 is 67% of 39. (Asians were 42.3% of admits and 14.1% of California’s population.)

The mandaters, of course, rarely admit that their real goal is attitude and behavior modification of whites. The loftier justification, as the Proposed Diversity Requirement states in its first sentence, is the belief that “a modern university must provide its students with the ability to understand the perspectives of others whose views, backgrounds, and experiences may differ from their own.” This rationale was repeated like a mantra. When he wasn’t handing Hillary a $300,000 check for speaking, for example, UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said repeatedly, as quoted here, that “one of my longstanding priorities and demonstrates our strong commitment to expose undergraduates to views and backgrounds other than their own.”

This “exposure to difference” rationale, however, if taken seriously, reveals the utter impossibility of implementing the requirement in a coherent manner. The proposal entails a new bureaucracy of apparatchiks — “an Undergraduate Council (UgC)-appointed Diversity Requirement Committee (DRC)” [described here and here] — to approve courses that satisfy the new requirement. But there are no corresponding rules regulating who may take which courses, i.e., limiting students to diversity credit for a course in which they in fact study those who are “different.” (Except perhaps for whites, who many would like to see required to take the course on “Understanding Whiteness”).

Unless and until UCLA creates a mechanism to bar diversity credit to blacks who take black history, Asian American women who take a course on Asian American women, gays who take an introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies, etc. (examples taken from example courses listed in Appendix B here), the “exposure to difference” rationale will remain exposed as a sham.

Proving Discrimination Is Almost Impossible

Teresa Wagner’s lawsuit
against the University of Iowa law school ended a few weeks ago when a jury
declared that the school did not submit her to political discrimination when it
rejected her application for a job. Wagner made a second allegation–that her
equal protection rights were violated because the law school held her political
activism against her–which was not ruled upon, the judge declaring a mistrial
because the jury couldn’t reach a decision, leaving open the possibility of
future action by Wagner’s attorney. Indeed, the Chronicle reports
that Wagner has filed papers asking for a retrial on all counts.
 

The first verdict wasn’t unexpected.  Wagner had to
prove that faculty members voted against her for her political views, which run
well to the Right.  But of course, nobody on hiring committees ever
says outright, “She’s a conservative–she’s out!”  They know
better–Schmidt cites one witness who “testified that no faculty member
would ‘be stupid enough’ to cite politics as the reason for turning down an applicant”–and
besides, they don’t have to.  In the hiring process there are so many
stages and variables that it’s easy to drop a conservative candidate for a
dozen other more or less non-political reasons.  “She isn’t a good
fit,” one might say, or “We already have strengths in her area, we need someone
in another field,” another could argue, or “I don’t think she handled questions
very well in the interview” could be the line.  The outcome is
assured and nobody needs to raise delicate matters along the way.

In Wagner’s case, a clear
distinction came up in her qualifications relative the person who got the job: She was one of five candidates chosen from a pool of 50 applicants invited to
present to the university’s faculty.

But that enthusiasm died soon after her presentation. The job
was given to Matt Williamson, a candidate who had never practiced law, had no
published works and was an ardent liberal who frequently criticized
Republicans, according to testimony and court documents presented last week to
the jury.

That a candidate who never practiced law and had no publications
should prevail over Wagner sounds fishy.  The Chronicle story
relates, too, that the person hired resigned a year later for “poor
performance.”  One could also mention the disparate-outcome argument
so beloved by liberals: the law school has one registered Republican and 46
registered Democrats.  Finally, one should note the email
law professor and former associate dean Jon Carlson sent to the law school dean
after the first rejection in which he worried that the faculty would balk at
the hiring of Wagner due to
“her politics (and especially her activism
about it).”
  

But the faculty had an answer: she botched the
presentation.  When asked about teaching “legal analysis,” an
important part of the job, they say, she declined.  Several witnesses
repeated that criticism, even though Wagner never recalls saying so (she showed
her pre-interview notes in court that displayed her intention to teach the
subject), and a couple of witnesses agreed with her, including Carlson and Mark
Osiel, another professor in the law school. The law school taped Wagner’s
presentation and could have offered the tape to settle the question. However,
the university erased the tape months after the hiring process had ended.

The coda to this story is equally frustrating. Just last week reporter
Jason Clayworth spoke
with four members of the jury who told him that jurors did believe that
political discrimination had taken place, but that they couldn’t hold one
person responsible.
This outcome shows how
far universities are able to fiddle with the hiring process with
impunity.  Here we have a jury convinced that political discrimination
took place, but they can’t convict because they have the wrong defendant. 
But the plaintiff couldn’t pick another defendant; indeed, federal law dictated
that the dean be made the “responsible party.” So people who feel they’ve been
treated unfairly face a Catch-22, and universities can carry on as usual.

Preferred and Prohibited Discrimination

Is the Fourteenth Amendment inferior to the
First? If states are generally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of
political identity, why should they be allowed to discriminate on the basis of
racial identity?

Consider Teresa
Wagner’s much-discussed
lawsuit against the University of Iowa College of Law for not hiring her due to her political convictions. A federal grand jury
believed the law school had indeed discriminated against her but ultimately deadlocked
because “federal law does not recognize political discrimination by
institutions.”

More interesting than this perhaps
provisional result is the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals’ legal reasoning that
made the trial possible. In its decision last
December allowing the trial to go forward, The Court of Appeals relied on a 2006 Supreme Court
decision
holding that Title VII “seeks a workplace where individuals are
not discriminated against because of their racial, ethnic, religious, or
gender-based status.” In short, it seeks “to prevent injury to individuals
based on who they are, i.e., their status.” The Eighth Circuit also
adopted the First Circuit’s holding that, if a plaintiff presents sufficient
evidence of discrimination, the employer was obligated to demonstrate a “nondiscriminatory
basis” for the decision to not hire. Specifically, the employer must show that
they did not consider the applicant’s “political affiliation.”
                                                                 

This raises an obvious question. Why should
courts allow discrimination against an applicant because of her racial identity
but not because of her opinion about abortion?
 

In an editorial
about the Teresa Wagner case, the Des Moines Register argued that the
University of Iowa “respects the goal of diversity for race, religion and
gender, but it should show the same respect for diversity of political
thought.” Actually, it already does. It discriminates on the basis of political
thought just as it discriminates on the basis of race and ethnicity. More
discrimination — seeking, say, a “critical mass” of conservatives — would
simply compound the discrimination, not cure it.

Should We Charge Different Fees for Different Majors?

Rick Scott.jpg

In the first couple weeks of any survey course in the
principles of economics, students are taught that prices are determined by the
interactions of consumers (demand) and producers (supply). Prices for many
things, such as oil, or of common stocks, constantly change with the frequent
shifts in the willingness of consumers and producers to buy or sell the good or
service in question.

Yet the price of college–tuition fees–seems to be
determined differently. For starters, tuition fees change but once a year, not
constantly. Universities are like restaurants, with “menus” giving prices for a
variety of different offerings, with the menu changing once a year.  For many schools, however, the listed price
is not what economists call an “equilibrium” price–a price equating quantity
demanded with quantity supplied. Rather, thousands are turned away at the
listed price at selective admission universities.  Also, massive price discrimination exists, so
many customers–often a majority–pay less than the stated or sticker price.

Amidst all of this, schools typically charge students the
same regardless of their major. A committee advising Florida Governor Rick
Scott has recommended a move to differential pricing–majors would pay
differing amounts. The goal is partly to entice students into the STEM
disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math) on grounds that our
future would be enhanced by having more scientists relative to, say, English
majors or anthropologists. By making STEM tuition fees lower, we will encourage
enrollment expansion in those fields. Ohio University’s Board of Trustees
recently considered (but did not yet adopt) a multiple-price approach, and
other schools are doing so. 

Continue reading Should We Charge Different Fees for Different Majors?

Title IX: Not About Discrimination

Imagine
a hypothetical gourmet grocery store chain — let’s call it Wholly Wholesome
Foods — that serves haute cuisine specialties at sushi/deli/lunch counters only
in its stores located in upscale neighborhoods. Now imagine the long zealous
arm of federal, state, and local enforcers accusing WhoWhoFoo of discriminating
against inner city residents and forcing it to open its lunch counters in all
of its stores, even those located in areas where extensive and intensive
studies have shown there is no unsatisfied desire to pony up for counter
service for WhoWhoFoo’s fancy foods.

Anyone
who thinks my hypothetical is too far-fetched need look no farther than America’s
college campuses to confirm that it isn’t a hypothetical at all. It’s been
happening in real life (or the college campus version of real life) for years
in ongoing disputes over implementing Title IX’s
requirement
that “athletic programs are operated in a manner that is
free from discrimination on the basis of sex.” 

The
central, unresolved conundrum of Title IX, as with so many controversial civil
rights issues, is lack of consensus over the definition and meaning of the “discrimination”
from which these programs must be free. Do colleges discriminate against women
by not offering sports programs in which few women are interested? Does “equal
opportunity” require eliminating programs in which men are interested in order
to have an equal number of programs available to men and women?

A few days ago Inside Higher Ed
published yet another report
of Title IX supporters reacting in outrage to yet another new study
arguing that “it may be a mistake to base Title IX implementation on the
assumption that males and females have, or soon will have, generally equal
sports interest.” Title IX activists reply, in effect, so what? Thus Erin
Buzuvis, a law professor at Western New England University who runs the Title IX Blog,
wonders,


why
are we surprised, in a world where there’s still sex discrimination, that women’s
participation in sport is lower than men’s? Women have inferior opportunities
and they have to do so against the cultural grain…. It doesn’t say anything at
all about what interest levels would be there absent discrimination and absent
these strong cultural forces.

 

In
any event, claims Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a law professor at Florida Coastal
School of Law, colleges can remain in compliance “by demonstrating that the
interests and abilities have been fully accommodated by the present program and
there is no unmet demand (via student surveys and such).”

Hogshead-Makar’s
claim is at best disingenuous, since Title IX proponents always ferociously
attack any attempt to measure women’s interest in college sports offerings as,
in the words of a senior executive at the NCAA quoted
by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2007, “contrived to show that females
are not interested in participation.” Similarly, in a 2010 Inside Higher Ed article,
Marcia
Greenberger
, founder and co-president of the National Women’s Law
Center, denounced interest surveys as “simply an underhanded way to weaken
Title IX and make it easy for schools that aren’t interested in providing equal
opportunity for women to skirt the law.”

That
Title IX activists aren’t actually opposing discrimination was nicely revealed
by Myles Brand, the late president of the NCAA. No survey, he said in the same
Inside Higher Ed article, could adequately measure women’s interest, “nor does
it encourage young women to participate.” If that’s what Title IX is about,
then the purpose of Title II‘s
requirement of equal, non-discriminatory access to public accommodations must
have been to encourage more blacks to sleep in hotels and buy ham sandwiches at
lunch counters.

Title
IX, in short, has nothing to do with ending discrimination. Like so much of
what passes for civil rights these days, it is all about promoting “equity,”
i.e., proportional representation in college sports, whether or not the
interests of men and women students is proportional.

The Sixth Circuit Undermines Affirmative Action

On November 6 the voters of Oklahoma, following in the footsteps of voters in California (1996), Washington (1998), Michigan (2006), Nebraska (2008), and Arizona (2010), passed  a constitutional amendment that prohibits the state from offering “preferred treatment” or engaging in discrimination based on race, color, gender, or ethnicity. On November 15 eight of the fifteen judges of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held, over vigorous dissents, that the nearly identical Michigan amendment requiring the state to treat all its residents without regard to their race violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Really.

As Roger Clegg just noted, this decision will almost certainly be reviewed by the Supreme Court, not primarily because it is unusually stupid but because it conflicts with both old and recent decisions of even the notoriously liberal Ninth Circuit. Ironically, this decision is so bad that it may actually do some good before the Court can review it. In flatly rejecting the same argument made in the Michigan case (by the same lawyer) against California’s Prop. 209, a three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in April that “Grutter upheld as permissible certain race-based affirmative action programs. It did not hold that such programs are constitutionally required.” In holding that states are effectively prohibited from deciding that race-based preferences are impermissible, the Sixth Circuit’s overreaching Egregious Eight may have inadvertently driven a stake through the heart of affirmative action. Their extreme decision may persuade Justice Kennedy and hence a conservative majority to hold in the upcoming Fisher decision that Grutter must be gutted, not tweaked, that the only “way to stop discrimination on the basis of race,” as Chief Justice Roberts famously said in Parents Involved, “is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Noting the great gulf separating the views on racial preference held by the nation’s opinion leaders and elites, including leaders and faculty of both public and private universities, Richard Kahlenberg recently quoted Richard Sander’s and Stuart Taylor Jr.’s observation in their terrific new book, Mismatch, “We can think of no other public issue in which the leadership class displays such cohesion in the face of a largely opposite view among Americans in general.”

In large part that’s because most Americans continue to define discrimination as distributing benefits or burdens based on race while opinion leaders in editorial and university offices, Hollywood and Madison Avenue, board rooms, and nearly all elected and appointed Democrats have abandoned that traditional definition and instead regard discrimination as anything that interferes with promoting “diversity,” which in practice means discriminating against white and Asians in order to admit or hire more blacks and Hispanics. Thus the Sixth Circuit thought it unfair that the citizens of Michigan prohibited “race-conscious” admissions, i.e., preferential treatment based on race, while allowing “a legacy-conscious admissions policy.” Whatever the merits or wisdom of legacy preference, it cannot be said that its intent or effect is to discriminate against minorities. Indeed, for over a generation now minorities have been admitted to selective institutions in greater numbers than if they had been held to the same standards as whites and Asians, and thus it is quite likely that legacy preferences on balance now actually benefit minorities.

Their “legacy conscious admissions” comparison reveals that the Sixth Circuit based its decision on the assumption that “race-conscious” admissions have the intent and effect of benefitting minorities. The massive amount of evidence presented in the “mismatch” scholarship of Sander, Taylor, and now many others, however, has demonstrated that in fact “race conscious” admissions actually does serious and lasting damage to its ostensible “beneficiaries.”

I say “ostensible” and put “beneficiaries” in quotes because for anyone who credits the mantra-like justifications for “race conscious” admissions offered by its proponents, it’s clear that lowering the bar for blacks and Hispanics is not intended as a benefit to them — after all, they would receive whatever benefits “diversity” offers at less selective institutions — but to the whites and Asians whose education is said to require being exposed to them.

In any event, the noxious belief of the Sixth Circuit and all supporters of racial preference that discrimination against some groups should be legal if it benefits other groups reveals how thoroughly American liberalism has abandoned the civil rights ideal that was its heart and soul from the1830s through the 1960s.

An Unusually Stupid Court Ruling

Yesterday the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that Michigan’s Proposal 2 violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. 

Proposal 2 was a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to provide that state and local government agencies (including public universities) in Michigan “shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”  The Equal Protection Clause provides that “No State shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The mind boggles.  Proposal 2 not only does not violate the Equal Protection Clause, and is not only quite consistent with it, but is indeed nothing more than an elaboration on it.

But here is the court of appeals’ reasoning:

A student seeking to have her family’s alumni connections considered in her application to one of Michigan’s esteemed public universities could do one of four things to have the school adopt a legacy-conscious admissions policy: she could lobby the admissions committee, she could petition the leadership of the university, she could seek to influence the school’s governing board, or, as a measure of last resort, she could initiate a statewide campaign to alter the state’s constitution. The same cannot be said for a black student seeking the adoption of a constitutionally permissible race-conscious admissions policy. That student could do only one thing to effect change: she could attempt to amend the Michigan Constitution–a lengthy, expensive, and arduous process–to repeal the consequences of Proposal 2. The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change.

To which the answer is:  The same might be said of a member of the Ku Klux Klan who wanted the University of Michigan to adopt a whites-only policy of racial segregation.  Would this court have ruled that the Klansman’s equal-protection rights are violated by Proposal 2?

That seems unlikely.  The decision was driven by its politically correct result, which is why the decision was 8-7 along partisan lines:  Every vote in the majority was by a Democrat-appointed judge (except, technically, for one who was originally nominated by President Clinton late in his term and then, in a misguided gesture of conciliation, renominated by President Bush at the beginning of his), and every dissenter was appointed by a Republican president.  Elections do indeed have consequences.

One’s first reaction is anger and frustration. 

Consider:  The saga may be said to begin in 1978, when a majority of the Supreme Court in the Bakke case decided that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not prohibit racial discrimination in university admissions, even though it reads, “No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin … be subjected to discrimination [by federally funded universities]….”  The fact that the national legislature had, by the clear terms of a statute it had passed, banned racial preferences in university admissions was just ignored.

So those opposing such discrimination would have to meet the standard the Court uses in constitutional cases, which allows the discrimination if it is “narrowly tailored” to a “compelling” interest.  As the discrimination became more and more widespread and entrenched, hard-fought lawsuits were in fact brought in Texas and then Michigan and taken through the courts of appeals, and then finally in 2003 the Supreme Court agreed to revisit the issue.  Alas, the Court struck down some of the discrimination but also held by a 5-4 margin that the “educational benefits” from “diversity” provided such a compelling interest, at least for another 25 years (!). 

So it was back to the political process in Michigan, where thousands of petition signatures were gathered and then Proposal 2 was passed with 58 percent of the vote after a bruising campaign.  And now we are told that this was a waste of time because using the political process this way is unconstitutional.  Again, it’s frustrating.

All this, in the courts and at the ballot, and all because of this seemingly unexceptionable desire:  That universities not discriminate in admission on the basis of skin color or what country someone’s ancestors came from.

But, on reflection, we can make lemonade from this lemon.

The state attorney general has already announced that he plans to take the case to the Supreme Court – thank goodness – which will almost certainly grant review, because the decision below is not only important and outrageous, but also creates a split in the circuits since the Ninth Circuit rejected a similar lawsuit.  When the Court does so, there ought to be at least five votes to overturn the Sixth Circuit’s decision – and clarify or overturn a confusing and mischievous couple of earlier Supreme Court decisions that the Sixth Circuit used to justify its result.  So the case will provide the Court with an opportunity to replace bad precedent containing dubious language with good precedent and good language for future cases.

And wait, there’s more:  It has already been my hope that the recent election results, and in particular the demographic spin being put on them, should push the conservative justices to ban racial preferences, period, in the recently argued Fisher v. University of Texas.  It’s clear that the composition of the Court is not going to get any better and may get worse, and it’s clear that the political branches are not going to address this problem – and, indeed, the country is getting to the point where political power is wielded in a way to create a racial spoils system in university admissions, contracting, you name it.   Therefore, our justices will reason, we have to take this off the table now.

The fact that the Court knows that the Sixth Circuit case is now in the wings may make this course of action even more attractive in Fisher.  Yesterday’s decision underscores the need for a clear statement from the Court in this area, and it is, after all, even easier to explain why banning racial preferences is not unconstitutional when there is a Supreme Court decision that holds that using racial preferences is unconstitutional.

You have to hand it to our opponents (in this case the lawsuit was brought by an organization whose name promises to defend affirmative action By Any Means Necessary, or “BAMN”):  They never give up.  So we can’t either.  They have the advantage of being unprincipled, but we have the advantage of being right – of wanting to end racial and ethnic discrimination and preference, which is the only tenable legal regime for our increasingly multiethnic and multiracial nation.

_________________________________________________________________________

Roger Clegg is president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, which joined amicus briefs filed by Pacific Legal Foundation in the Sixth Circuit case and in Fisher.

The Wacky World of Victim Studies

bawer.jpg

Bruce Bawer’s new
book, The Victims’ Revolution:  the Rise of Identity Studies
and the Closing of the Liberal Mind
, arrived on the front page of the “Back
to School” issue of the New York Times Book Review.  Any
author of a book on higher education would have to be delighted to be awarded
such prominence.  The review itself, however, sliced in the opposite direction,
declaring The Victims’ Revolution to
be quaintly out of touch with the realities of American higher education;
behind the times; mistaken in its basic points; “lacking in balance;”
full of “dubious assertions;” guilty of preciosity in its criticisms;
and oblivious to the real issues of the day.  


The reviewer, Andrew
Delbanco, professor of American Studies at Columbia University, earlier this
year offered up his own diagnosis of what ails American higher education
now.  In College:  What it Was, Is, and
Should Be
, Delbanco argued that “the vast majority of college students are
capable of engaging the kinds of big questions–questions of truth,
responsibility, justice, beauty, among others–that were once assumed to be at
the center of college education.”  His is
the voice of a moderate reformer who is at peace with most of the changes in
higher education that have arisen in the last half century, including its
massive expansion, but who sees some room for improvement.

Continue reading The Wacky World of Victim Studies

Why Are There Still Preferences for Women?

Using federal statistics, Laura Norén has prepared a series of graphics showing gender distribution among recent recipients of undergraduate, M.A., and Ph.D./professional degrees. The charts are visually striking, especially since all three sets of charts show movement in an identical direction. According to Norén, by 2020, women are projected to earn 61 percent of all M.A. degrees and 58 percent of all B.A. degrees—figures far above the percentage of women in the total population. There’s no indication that this trend will reverse anytime soon.

The Norén chart reminded me of figures revealed in CUNY’s recent faculty “diversity” report. As I previously noted at Minding the Campus, the demographic breakdown of CUNY’s faculty (and there’s no reason to believe that CUNY’s figures differ from those at most major public institutions) has shown a similar progression.

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of women increased from 42 to 47 percent of the all CUNY faculty. (The total had risen five percent in the previous decade, as well.) Because of the nature of tenure—only a small percentage of faculty positions come open every year—a five percent overall gain in a decade suggests disproportionate figures in hiring. And, indeed, that was the case—while the CUNY diversity report only broke down gender-hiring patterns for a couple of years in the decade, in 2005, the most recent year for which data was available, 55.5 percent of the new hires were women. If current patterns hold, women will be the majority of CUNY faculty in 2020 and be nearing the 60 percent mark by 2030.

There’s nothing necessarily troubling with these patterns in and of themselves. Undoubtedly the growing numbers of female students—and female faculty members—in part reflect the broader opening of higher education toward women that has occurred since the 1960s. And in a nation where women form 50.8 percent of the population, a fair-minded campus admissions and hiring process could easily yield majority-female enrollment or hires.

Yet these statistics do raise profound, and troubling questions about the nature of campus race/ethnicity/gender “diversity” programs. If women are the substantial majority of students at all levels, and increasingly emerge as the majority of faculty members, what possible rationale could exist for programs, of any type, that grant gender-based preferences to women? Regarding the student population, at least, and the faculty population in the near future, women are no longer an underrepresented minority. To my knowledge, however, no university anywhere in the country has modified either its admissions or its personnel policies to take into account statistics such as those graphed by Norén.

Take, for instance, the University of Michigan’s affirmative action policies. The policies include such banalities as a requirement that “university publications relating to employment . . . include articles covering the University’s affirmative action programs, including progress reports and employment data on minorities and women. Pictures will include minorities and women.”

But other requirements are more direct. “Special attention will be given,” according the guidelines,“to extending and strengthening efforts to increase the number of women” in faculty positions. “Recruitment practices will focus on creating a feeling[emphasis added] conducive to attracting minorities and women.” And faculty search committees “will utilize methods which are most likely to result in the inclusion of qualified minorities and women in the applicant pool.” Such requirements might once have been needed. But in an academy in which women are moving toward majority status?

Despite all of these policies, moreover, the university preposterously maintains that “Applicants for employment are considered and placed without regard to . . . sex.” And with federal courts clearly in mind, the guidelines add that goals and timetables for hiring more women at Michigan “are not to be construed or used as a quota system.”

There’s nothing particularly unusual about Michigan’s policies, just as there was nothing unusual about CUNY’s faculty hiring data; such patterns are common throughout higher education. And there’s no reason to believe that any statistics will lead to these policies being repealed.

Norén’s chart unintentionally highlights a point made in several of the Fisher briefs: that it’s entirely possible that even outright quotas might lead to a fairer higher education system than our ever-shifting “goals and timetables,” which can easily be shielded from transparency.

What Columbia Is Doing Is Illegal

Just
a few lawyerly thoughts to add to KC Johnson’s excellent post yesterday on Columbia University setting aside
$30 million to hire female and minority faculty.

It was clear enough all along that Columbia’s
hiring would be racially discriminatory, if not racially exclusive; and, as
Professor Johnson points out, even the pretext that sometimes a (politically
correct) white male might be eligible for hiring has apparently now been
abandoned. And of course this is an unfair, divisive, and corrupt policy.  But it should also be pointed out that it is
ILLEGAL to weigh race,  ethnicity, and
sex in hiring.

You
shouldn’t have to be a math whiz to understand that Title VI does not equal
Title VII.  President Bollinger of course
knows that, in its 2003 Grutter v.
Bollinger
(“That’s me!”) decision, the Supreme Court said that
universities could discriminate – to a limited degree – on the basis of race
and ethnicity in student admissions under, among other federal laws, Title
VI.  And so it is commonly assumed that
it must also be okay for universities to weigh race and ethnicity (and sex) in
the same “diversity”-driven way when they hire faculty.

Wrong. The Grutter
decision said nothing about Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which
covers employment and which has different language and jurisprudence than Title
VI.  The federal courts have never
recognized a “diversity” exception to Title VII, and are unlikely to. In fact,
when that issue was about to be decided by the Supreme Court in the late 1990s,
the civil-rights establishment hastily raised enough money to settle the case. More
on the problems with faculty hiring discrimination here.

And
don’t even think about making the “role model” argument in lieu of
the “diversity” argument.  When
you read about a university’s efforts to diversify its faculty, a school
official will frequently assert that these efforts are important because
minority or female students  need “role
models” (relatedly, it is often suggested that the faculty  should reflect the student body or even the
community’s general 
population).  This is a dubious argument as a policy
matter, but what is amazing is that the argument continues to be made even
though the
Supreme Court rejected it, as
legal matter, over
twenty-five years
ago
. 

N.B.  The Supreme Court has, alas, also
(mis)interpreted Title VII to be a less-than-categorical ban on discrimination,
but the politically correct exceptions it has carved out (for “manifest
imbalances” in 
“traditionally
segregated job categories”) do not apply, and are not cited by Columbia,
here.

Here Come the Advocacy ‘Studies’

UCLA’s Proyecto Derechos Civiles — also known
as the
Civil
Rights Project
— has just published a useful
new study
suggesting the extent of racial discrimination in
graduate school admissions. It examined minority graduate enrollments in four
states with bans on racial preferences — California, Florida, Washington, and Texas
(where the ban is no longer in effect), and the results are nicely summarized in
this chart from the
Inside Higher Ed article
trumpeting the study:


Field

%
of Minority Graduate Enrollments Before Ban

%
After Ban

Drop
Since Ban

Engineering

6.2%

4.6%

-26%

Natural
sciences

7.8%

6.3%

-19%

Social
sciences

12.1%

10.2.%

-16%

Humanities

10.2%

9.0%

-12%

 

The Civil Rights Project, of course, touts
its findings
not as providing evidence of the degree of
discrimination in states without bans on racial preferences but rather as
dramatic proof “that the bans have led to marked declines in key areas of
graduate studies.” These findings, it claims, “are particularly timely as the
U.S. Supreme Court, during its upcoming fall term, will consider in Fisher v. University
of Texas at Austin whether race-conscious admissions policies are necessary to
produce the student body diversity the University believes is essential for its
educational success.”

Continue reading Here Come the Advocacy ‘Studies’

Oppositional Gay Culture and the Future of Marriage

Parade.jpgThese are banner days for the gay-rights movement. “Banner Days” is in fact the front page headline in The New York Times Book Review for a review of Linda Hirshman’s new book, Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution. The reviewer, Rich Benjamin, praises Hirshman’s work but feels the need to chasten her on the extent of the “victory”–

There are no federal protections against anti-gay employment discrimination. Same-sex marriage is explicitly forbidden in 38 states. Most Southern states have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. Gay families face codified and implicit discrimination when adopting children. Gay youth across the country are stigmatized by their peers.

Benjamin is surely right that these are fairly large discrepancies to
accommodate to a thesis that the gay-rights movement has achieved
unalloyed victory. Gays and lesbians are a lot more mainstream than at
any earlier time in American history, but they nonetheless remain divided
from American culture and society in significant ways.

Continue reading Oppositional Gay Culture and the Future of Marriage

Texas Finds That Discrimination Isn’t Cheap

Inside Higher Ed reports this morning that the University of Texas has hired a big Los Angeles-based law firm, Latham and Watkins, to defend its race-based admission policy before the Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas, which the Supreme Court will hear next fall. “The law firm, with extensive Supreme Court expertise, will be paid a flat fee of $977,000, with up to another $10,000 for expenses.”

Continue reading Texas Finds That Discrimination Isn’t Cheap

The Next Toxic Ism: Realism

reality-check-ahead.jpgThe social sciences and humanities have not produced much of intellectual value for 25 years or so, but they have been enormously productive in generating “isms”widely held allegedly toxic beliefs that are said to undermine a professor-defined “good society.” The notable classics“racism,” “sexism,” classism, and nativismonce sufficed, but unexpected bursts of faculty creativity have given us ableism (privileging of the so-called physically “able”), Eurocentrism, ethnocentrism, elitism, masculinism, fatism (disdaining the differently sized), phallocentrism, and scentism (imposing the odor of one’s perfume or cologne on others), but not yet phalloscentismthe belief that men smell bad.

Ageism, lookism (judging people by physical appearances),
heterosexualism (privileging heterosexuals) and credentialism
(emphasizing paper credentials) are approaching classic status. So is
speciesism, the faulty belief that humans are somehow more important
than deer ticks.

Continue reading The Next Toxic Ism: Realism

‘Totalitarian Tactics’ at Vanderbilt

Posted by Fr. John Sims Baker

The students here at Vanderbilt Catholic have decided to move our 500-member group off campus rather than allow the university to dictate who our leaders might be. Using anti-discrimination rules, the administration says campus groups must allow all students to become group officials–which would means we must accept non-religious and even anti-religious candidates for office. How impressive to spend three and a half hours with these students on a Friday evening a couple of weeks ago deciding what we needed to do in response to the policy which had finally appeared in writing, along with official interpretation:

Continue reading ‘Totalitarian Tactics’ at Vanderbilt

Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

Pressure has been building for President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression by federal contractors, a move that might make the recent controversy over requiring religious institutions to offer contraception services look mild by comparison.

Metro Weekly recently reported on a strategy session in retiring Rep. Barney Frank’s office attended by representatives of the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and other gay and transgender equity advocacy organizations to organize a campaign for such an executive order. Shortly thereafter on Feb. 6 the San Francisco Chronicle’s web site published a press release from the Williams Institute at the UCLA law school calling for a gay rights executive order, and the New York Times published an OpEd, “What Obama Should Do About Workplace Discrimination,” by M.V. Lee Badgett, the Williams Institute’s research director.

Continue reading Is Another Furor Over Religious Liberty Coming?

No Need for Congress to Act–I’m President, So I’ll Do It Myself

Watch this space. I will be posting something shortly (but not short) on a proposed presidential executive order that would impose by White House fiat the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (discussed here and here), which serial Congresses have refused to pass.

Continue reading No Need for Congress to Act–I’m President, So I’ll Do It Myself

Confusion over Anti-Asian Discrimination

At the request of the unidentified Asian-American student who filed discrimination complaints against Harvard and Princeton, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has ended its investigation.

The civil rights office had folded the complaint against Princeton … into a compliance review begun in 2008 of whether that university discriminates against Asian-Americans.

The allegations in the 2011 complaint “will no longer be considered as part of OCR’s existing compliance review involving Princeton,” said an Education Department spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.

Continue reading Confusion over Anti-Asian Discrimination

What Has Happened to Academic Freedom?

Dr. London, a senior fellow of the Manhattan Institute, received the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award for Academic Freedom on February 9 from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and the American Conservative Union Foundation. These were his remarks on the occasion.
***

It is with enormous humility and gratitude that I accept this award from the Bradley Foundation that has done so much to promote liberty inside and outside the Academy. I am particularly pleased to receive the Jeane Kirkpatrick Award since I remember with great joy our discussion of her very important essay “Dictatorships and Double Standards,” which appeared in the November 1979 issue of Commentary.

To think that this distinguished scholar would be denied an opportunity to speak at American colleges demonstrates how far we have traveled down the slope of despair. Jeane fought back with her arsenal of well-placed barbs and could not be intimidated by academic thuggery. She will always remain one of my heroines.

This introduction is a reminder of why academic freedom must be defended and what it stands for. In 1940 the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure.” As the AAUP saw it, academic freedom was a right and a privilege. It afforded scholars the opportunity to express their views freely, applying standards of critical judgment, objectivity, sincere inquiry.

This right to express one’s views unfettered by outside influence is unique. It is one of the two essential characteristics of academic freedom. The first of these is what the German gymnasium called lehrfreiheit. In offering this freedom, the Academy noted that teaching should foster integrity, a spirit of inquiry, and competence in one’s field of study. Some might describe it as the search for truth circumscribed by ethical standards.

The second feature of academic freedom is lernfreiheit, or the right of a student to express himself free from intimidation. Here is the presumptive classroom synergy: professorial freedom to inquire and student freedom to express opinions.

It is a privilege for the Academy to claim it is imperium in imperio. Since colleges are set apart from society, there is an implicit belief in self-regulation. Presumably just as the scholar can resist intervention from critics, the professoriate in general can resist pressures from the larger society, a form of collective academic freedom. That reality was recognized with some aberrations throughout this last century.

Now, however, there is a growing awareness, and I should hastily note an appropriate awareness, that academic freedom can be used to protect irresponsible behavior. In fact, for some faculty members, academic freedom has been so defined that any resemblance between the professional behavior outlined in the AAUP 1940 statement and present patterns of conduct are merely coincidental.

Alas, many college campuses have been converted into centers of orthodoxy for unwary students often too naïve to identify the propagandistic exercise of overzealous instructors. It is ironic that while most college administrators will reflexively adopt diversity standards on campus in an effort to have different racial and ethnic groups represented, these same administrators often reject the diversity of ideas that is the well spring of academic freedom.

It is curious that the professorial organizations created to protect faculty members from blacklisting and government intervention often have a political agenda of their own that repudiates the very principles they were organized to defend. This isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last, example of organizations that have lost touch with their own principles, but for someone who has been in the academic vineyards for decades, it is disillusioning.

In the late sixties an Australian political scientist argued that it is more important “to win” than to teach. By “win” he meant convert the culture through the mobilization of student activists. Today there are many professors on this side of the Pacific who would agree with this proposal. Whatever happened to the spirit of inquiry? And when did the words “teach” and “preach” become indistinguishable?

In a Middle East Studies course at Columbia University, an instructor provocatively asked a student who had served in the Israeli Defense Force, “How many Arab woman and children have you killed?” Whatever happened to the avoidance of intimidation?  Could the student in question ever feel free to raise an opposing point of view in that classroom?

Last year, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren – a noted scholar in his own right – was about to deliver an address at the University of California, Irvine. As soon as he went to the podium, representatives of the Muslim Student Association shouted him down and threatened further violence, thereby ending the engagement. When the Muslim students were indicted for promoting violence, the faculty raised money for their defense. Whatever happened to the dignity and openness academic freedom was intended to promote? What is the message faculty members are trying to convey on that campus?

The price of academic freedom, like the price of democracy, is eternal vigilance. A diminution of academic freedom and the principles residing in this concept affect all Americans. We should call on scholars and administrators alike to reaffirm the traditions of the past recognizing that academic freedom is not conditional. Scholarship worthy of that designation must be objective, rigorous, analytical, and disinterested. And we should have the courage to criticize those faculty members who have undermined academic integrity and the administrators who avert their gaze to the travesty on campus.

A Southern preacher filled with fire and brimstone gave a sermon to his followers on the End of Days. With great passion he said, “When the end of days comes there will be crying, wailing and the gnashing of teeth.” He repeated this lamentation several times. An elderly man seated in the front of the church stood up and said, “but preacher I haven’t any teeth.” Somewhat disarmed, the preacher thought for a moment and then replied, “At the End of Days teeth will be provided.”

We do not have to wait till the End of Days. Our teeth can be found in the principles associated with academic freedom. If you bare them, the activists will retreat allowing colleges and universities to return to the sensible openness that not so long ago characterized academic life.

Let’s Be Frank about Anti-Asian Admission Policies

Asian students.jpgOn February 2 Daniel Golden, former Wall Street Journal reporter and author of a highly regarded book on college admissions, reported in Bloomberg’s Business Week that Harvard and Princeton are being investigated by the Dept. of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for discrimination against Asians.

It’s not the first time. In fact, for the past decade or so there has been a rising tide of accusations that the Ivies and other selective institutions treat Asians as the “new Jews” (referring to quotas on Jews in the Ivies and elsewhere early in the 20th Century, and often beyond), holding them to much higher admission standards than applicants from other groups in order to prevent their “over representation” and thus make room for the “under-represented” blacks and Hispanics admitted under much lower affirmative action standards. Harvard and Princeton, of course, deny the accusation.

Harvard “does not discriminate against Asian-American applicants,” spokesman Jeff Neal told Business Week. “Our review of every applicant’s file is highly individualized and holistic, as we give serious consideration to all of the information we receive and all of the ways in which the candidate might contribute to our vibrant educational environment and community.” Princeton read from the same script: The college “doesn’t discriminate on the basis of race or national origin,” claimed spokesman Martin Mbugua. “We make admissions decisions on a case-by-case basis in our efforts to build a well-rounded, diverse class.”

Do Admissions Officers Really Believe What They Say?

Of course, despite all the smoke they blow (and, it would appear, inhale) about “holistic,” “highly individualized,” “case by case” evaluations, if admissions offices did not allow race to be the determining factor in many cases, how would they know whether any particular applicant would contribute to the pigmentary “diversity” they so diligently seek? It is simply a fact, as Roger Clegg has cogently pointed out, “if you consider race, then in some instances it’s going to make a difference in whether a person is admitted (otherwise, why bother to consider it?), and when that happens, you have racial discrimination.”

Extensive evidence that Asian American applicants must jump a much higher bar to gain admission to elite universities than applicants from other groups and that they have been the big gainers where affirmative action has been dropped has long been available and should no longer surprise anyone. For example, in a widely discussed Wall Street Journal article back in 2006, Is Admissions Bar Higher for Asians At Elite Schools? Daniel Golden (the author of last week’s Business Week article linked above) noted a Center for Equal Opportunity study finding that Asian applicants to the University of Michigan in 2005 had a median SAT score that was “50 points higher than the median score of white students who were accepted, 140 points higher than that of Hispanics and 240 points higher than that of blacks.” That study also found that “among applicants with a 1240 SAT score and 3.2 grade point average in 2005, the university admitted 10% of Asian-Americans, 14% of whites, 88% of Hispanics and 92% of blacks.” Golden also reported that after California abolished racial preference the percentage of Asian-Americans accepted at Berkeley increased from 34.6% in 1997, the last year of legal affirmative action, to 42% entering in fall 2006.

Although it is widely thought, especially by defenders of affirmative action, that whites benefit when racial preferences are eliminated (indeed, those defenders frequently accuse critics of being racists whose purpose is to benefit whites), that is not the case. As I noted here, citing this data, the proportion of white freshmen entering the University of California system “fell from 40% in 1997 to 34% in 2005.”

A 140-Point SAT Disadvantage for Asians

Similar data abound. In 2005, for example, Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist (more on him below), and a colleague published an article demonstrating that if affirmative action were eliminated across the nation “Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places in the admitted class not taken by African-American and Hispanic students, with an acceptance rate rising from nearly 18 percent to more than 23 percent.” In a 2009 Inside Higher Ed article based on his book, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life, Espenshade and another colleague wrote that

[c]ompared to white applicants at selective private colleges and universities, black applicants receive an admission boost that is equivalent to 310 SAT points, measured on an all-other-things-equal basis. The boost for Hispanic candidates is equal on average to 130 SAT points. Asian applicants face a 140 point SAT disadvantage.

asian-student.jpg

Summarizing Espenshade’s findings, Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed, gingerly concluded that “[s]ignificant advantages and disadvantages exist for members of some racial and ethnic groups with regard to the SAT or ACT scores they need to have the same odds of admission as members of other groups.” Since Espenshade concludes that black applicants to selective universities receive a 450 point “boost” compared to otherwise similarly qualified Asian applicants, I’d say that Jaschik’s statement oozes with obfuscatory politically correct understatement. That same tone suffuses Jaschik’s long article last week on the recent charge of anti-Asian discrimination at Harvard and Princeton. Because affirmative action is grounded (notwithstanding all the transparent claptrap about “diversity”) in a desire to help minorities, evidence that it significantly harms an ethnic minority makes its academic supporters as uncomfortable as a skunk at a garden party. Since they can’t refute the evidence, they try to argue that it doesn’t mean what it obviously means. Perhaps the Asians, they insinuate, are overly sensitive, imagining discrimination where it doesn’t exist. Here’s how Jaschik frames the issue (emphasis added):

What does it say about college admissions that a group achieving considerable academic success believes it is being held to unfair standards? Is there really proof to back up the widespread perception of bias? Are those who are convinced of bias relying solely on certain numeric measures? Are colleges hiding behind codes (such as the desire for someone who is “well-rounded” or concerns about “grinds”) to discriminate against Asian applicants?

Real Bias or Just ‘Belief in Bias’?

Jaschik’s article is characterized by this trope of a “belief in bias.” A few examples:

– Admissions counselors and advocates for Asian-American students say that belief in bias is widespread — and that the belief alone should be cause for concern…. – David Hawkins, director of public policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said “he is aware of (and concerned about) the way many applicants see this issue … ‘but I suspect it’s much more complicated.'” – “In some cases, colleges have adopted policies that some see as hurting Asian-American applicants — without necessarily violating the law.” – “Debates over the relative merits of standardized tests also tend to be viewed by many through their impact on different applicant groups.” – “Many advocates for Asian-American students believe that some elite college admissions officers use phrases like “well-rounded” to favor white applicants of lesser academic quality over Asian-American applicants.”

In addition to implying that the “belief” in discrimination reflects little more than overheated Asian-American imaginations, Jaschik’s article also argues through its quotations of various defenders of affirmative action — and, as we shall see, through misleading summarizing by Jaschik himself — that treating Asian-American applicants significantly worse than other applicants does not amount to discriminating against them and should not be used to discredit affirmative action. Robert Teranishi, associate professor of higher education at New York University and author of Asians in the Ivory Tower: Dilemmas of Racial Inequality in American Higher Education, is “worried about efforts to link alleged bias against Asian-American applicants to broader debates over affirmative action.” According to Teranishi, “many Asian-American students in the United States” — such as poor recent immigrants — “deserve and benefit from affirmative action.” Really? That sounds doubtful to me, but perhaps Prof. Teranishi’s book presents data on vasts numbers of Asian-American applicants who are given preferential treatment in admission. The most dramatic, and unconvincing, denials that the data of Prof. Espenshade and others demonstrating the significantly higher hurdles faced by Asian-Americans amounts to discrimination against them comes from … Prof. Espenshade himself, who combines the mistaken Asian “beliefs” discussed above with outright denials of discrimination. In an interview last week with Jaschik,

Espenshade said that “all other things equal, Asian-American students are at a disadvantage relative to white students, and at an even bigger disadvantage relative to black and Latino students.” But he was quick to add that “this doesn’t mean there is discrimination.”

He noted that the modeling he has done is based on quantifiable measures such as grades and test scores. “We don’t have access to all the information an admissions dean does,” he said. “We don’t have extracurriculars. We don’t have personal statements or guidance counselors’ recommendations. We’re missing some stuff.” Those who assume that average scores indicate bias may not understand the many factors that go into college admissions at elite private colleges, he said. “The fact that these institutions are looking for a multiplicity of talent is more understood in some communities than others,” he said. “There might be a tendency of many Asian-American students to think that academic credentials are going to carry not only the most weight, but all the weight, in who gets admitted, and that isn’t so.”

The Ever-Handy Excuse of ‘Soft Variables’

asian students walking.jpgProf. Espenshade has been running from the implications of his research findings for years, as I argued here on Minding The Campus nearly two years ago. In a 2009 interview, for example, he told the Daily Princetonian that he did not use the word “discrimination” in discussing his study because “he did not have access to what he called ‘soft variables,’ like extracurriculars and teacher recommendations.

“The data we had is only part of the data that admission deans have access to,” Espenshade said. “If we had access to the full range of info, it could put Asian candidates in a different light. This so-called ‘Asian disadvantage’ does not necessarily mean that Asian applicants are being discriminated against.”

Leaving aside the awkward assertion that Asians have “a tendency” to “think” or “assume” or “believe” things that are not true and “may not understand” the complexity of the admissions process that is “more understood” in other “communities,” Prof. Espenshade doesn’t seem to recognize the clear implication of his reference to “soft variables” to deny discrimination: if there’s no discrimination, it’s because blacks and Hispanics are so much better at writing personal statements and performing extracurricular activities and securing outstanding letters of recommendation that their superior performance in these areas, compared to the hapless Asians, balances out their deficits in grades and test scores. Prof. Espenshade leans over so far backwards in attempting to deny discrimination against Asians that he stumbles well past lame or silly into territory, as I wrote on this site back in 2010, that “is almost humorously dumb, and offensive.”

The only person in Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s article who tries even harder than Prof. Espenshade to escape to the implications of Prof. Espenshade’s data is … Scott Jaschik. Referring to Prof. Espenshade’s book, Jaschik writes that “Asian-American applicants need SAT scores of about 140 points higher than students from other groups with equivalent academic qualifications to get admitted to competitive private institutions.” But that’s not at all what’s in Prof. Espenshade’s book or even what Prof. Espenshade wrote on Inside Higher Ed back in 2009. As we saw above, Espenshade wrote there that Asians must score 140 higher on the SAT than similarly qualified whites, not “students from other groups,” and that they must score 450 points higher than similarly qualified blacks.

Sometimes in the defense of affirmative action simple obfuscation isn’t sufficient. Those times call for outright denial, and editor Jaschik proves he is up to the task.

Let’s Not Turn Satire and Criticism into Discriminatory Harassment

FIRE
(the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) has attracted
important support for its open letter asking the Department of Education
to define harassment
narrowly enough to allow genuinely free speech on campus. Many colleges
and universities ban expression that might be considered “offensive” or
cause “embarrassment” or “ridicule.” The January 6 letter, sent to
Russlyn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights
in the Education Department, has been signed by, among others, the
National Association of Scholars, the Alliance Defense Fund Center for
Academic Freedom, Feminists for Free Expression and ACTA, the American
Council of Trustees and Alumni.

More Ideological Discrimination at the University of Iowa?

In the groupthink academy, perhaps the most opaque, but significant, personnel process comes in the hiring of new faculty. In a flawed tenure case (as I came to discover), some precedent exists for the courts (or, in my case, fair-minded senior administrators) intervening to undo an ethically improper outcome. In the typical hiring process, however, there’s almost no chance of any type of outside intervention, since it’s almost impossible to prove ideological, or political, or pedagogical discrimination. The result, of course, has been a tyranny of the majority in most humanities and many social science departments around the country.

Continue reading More Ideological Discrimination at the University of Iowa?

An Outbreak of Equality in Wisconsin

When last we heard from Wisconsin, Roger Clegg, the mild-mannered, scholarly president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, had provoked a riot of pro-racial preference liberals there by visiting the state to discuss CEO’s studies demonstrating massive racial discrimination by the University of Wisconsin. He must have put something in the water (or beer) while there, since now even a  Democrat there has surprised, shocked, and angered her party colleagues by introducing a measure in the legislature to eliminate race or ethnicity as factors in awarding state education grants.

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A Study Sets Out to Prove Tea Partiers Are Racist

tea_party.jpgAmong those prizing truth, modern social science does not enjoy an especially good reputation. As a political scientist myself, I’ve long encountered conservatives who often complain that much contemporary social science does little more than demonize conservative views. Unfortunately, such grumbling is often correct but that said, complainers rarely grasp how this bias is imposed and, more important, why bias passes professional scrutiny. The answers are simple, the rules for conducting research themselves permit social scientists to create “reality” and with that power, run-of-the mill dishonesty is unnecessary.

To illustrate how research can be weaponized for ideological purposes, all the while honoring the conventions of modern social science, consider a paper presented at the 2011 American Political Science Association’s annual national meeting castigating the Tea Party movement as “racist.” It was written by a well-respected academic who heeded all the accepted (and scientific) disciplinary conventions. Indeed, I strongly suspect that the ideologically-driven Tea Party bashing was scarcely noticed by peers who initially screened the paper or were in the Seattle audience when it was presented. This is the point: bias is so deeply ingrained, so professionally acceptable, that it escapes notice.

Continue reading A Study Sets Out to Prove Tea Partiers Are Racist