Tag Archives: racial bias

Diversity Oaths: Another Step Away from Honest Scholarship

When I was nearing the end of my Ph.D. studies in politics at Princeton University in 2006, I was invited to interview for a job at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Midway through the interview process, I was asked by graduate students how I would change my curricula to “accommodate the needs of people of color.” My response, as best I can remember, was, “I would never do such a thing. It undermines the universalism of education and knowledge, demeans people of color with assumptions about their inability to master cutting-edge research, and permanently consigns them to second-rate status in society.” That answer did not go down well at the department hiring meeting, junior faculty there later told me.

The view was that my “incorrect” response to the question indicated that my presence would upset the solidly left-leaning harmony of the department: “I grew up in a dysfunctional family, and I will not work in a dysfunctional department!” the very left-wing senior department member declared. The job went to another candidate who, as best I can tell, failed to make tenure.

Related: Paycheck Unfairness under Cover of Diversity

The experience of failing an ideological litmus test at UC Santa Cruz dwells with me still. Last month the Oregon chapter of the National Association of Scholars, of which I am president, issued a report on the subject: “The Imposition of Diversity Statements on Faculty Hiring and Promotion at Oregon Universities.” It looks at how four Oregon universities are slowly imposing declarations of support for the ideology of “diversity, equity, and inclusion” onto faculty hiring and promotion decisions.

It argues that this implicit ideological litmus test is both a betrayal of public funding for universities and an abandonment of the idea that scholars should be protected from ideological impositions from any part of the political spectrum. The report documents how universities are engaged in what we might call “diversity-baiting”: accusing, denouncing, attacking and persecuting current or potential faculty based on their lack of support for the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” dogma.

Statements at all four universities show that campus diversicrats believe fervently that this ideology must be enforced through university-level sanctions as well as department-level choices. I was discouraged to read my own university’s “Chief Diversity Officer” declare to one news site: “I’m one of those that deeply believes that compliance work is an important engine of the bigger diversity bus, because if you can’t change their hearts and their minds, you will govern their behavior and hold them accountable.” The “diversity bus” is an apt term: reeling down the road, crushing all beneath its tires, and hurling dissenters into the ditch.

To be sure, an acceptance of American pluralism is a core American value. But, as the report shows, “diversity, equity, and inclusion” are always defined on campus in rigidly left-wing terms: an emphasis on group (not individual or national) identities; a focus on group victimization (not on cultural norms or individual behavior); and an insistence on group entitlements (not individual responsibility or equality). It is also no surprise that much of the epicenter of this movement is California.

The report quotes Dr. Tanya Golash-Boza, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California at Merced and during 2016-17 the Vice Chair of the UC System-wide Committee on Affirmative Action, Diversity, & Equity, advising job candidates that their diversity statements should focus on “commonly accepted understandings of diversity and equity” such as “racial oppression, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism or some other commonly recognized form of oppression.” She then suggests that candidates who do not agree with this approach should not bother to apply for jobs: “Note that if you do not care about diversity and equity and do not want to be in a department that does, don’t waste your time crafting a strong diversity statement — and you need not read any further in this essay.”

Related: How a University Moved from Diversity to Indoctrination

Two responses are typically given to criticisms of the diversity statements. One is that “our faculty support this.” But this begs the question of whether issues like this should be decided by majority rule. Even if university faculties were remotely balanced politically, I doubt those majority decisions on ideological conditions on employment would ever be appropriate.

But given the extreme imbalance of political viewpoints – roughly 15 Democrats for every one Republican or moderate on most campuses – the argument for majority rule is laughable. The argument for academic freedom, like the argument for religious freedom, is simply to protect minorities from the theocratic rule of the majority.

A second response is this: faculty can respond to the diversity statement in any way they please, including by not responding at all. But as my experience at the University California at Santa Cruz demonstrates, and as several documents cited in our report show, this is disingenuous. Left-leaning senior mullahs will easily detect deviant behavior from current or prospective faculty and once the fatwah is issued, junior faculty waiting for tenure and promotion will quietly fall into line.

Why does all of this matter? Because at the heart of the crisis in higher education is a slow departure from the university as a pluralistic site of research and teaching excellence. Everything else – growing bureaucracies, rising tuition, union Bolshevism, falling state fiscal support, and declining learning outcomes – revolves around this. Diversity statements are the final, fatal blow that will institutionalize ideological discrimination and render the already-tenuous status of many departments and faculty members as “scholars” permanently on the side of political activism and ideological agitation. No one is safe from the diversity bus. It needs to be driven to the junkyard.

‘Anti-White Rhetoric Comes Right out of the Academy’

Democratic pundits are calling on their party to court working-class and non-coastal whites in the wake of November’s electoral rout. But the Democratic Party is now dominated by identity politics, which defines whites, particularly heterosexual males, as oppressors of every other population in the U.S. Why should the targets of such thinking embrace an ideology that scorns them.

The most absurd Democratic meme to emerge from the party’s ballot-box defeat is the claim that it is Donald Trump, rather than Democrats, who engages in “aggressive, racialized discourse,” in the words of a Los Angeles Times op-ed. By contrast, President Barack Obama sought a “post-racial, bridge-building society,” according to New York Times reporter Peter Baker. Obama’s post-racial efforts have now “given way to an angry, jeering, us-against-them nation,” writes Baker, in a front-page “news” story.

Post-Racial Bridge-Building?

Tell that valedictory for “post-racial bridge-building” to police officers, who have been living through two years of racialized hatred directed at them in the streets, to the applause of many Democratic politicians. Black Lives Matter rhetoric consists of slogans like: “CPD [Chicago Police Department] KKK, how many children did you kill today?” “Fuck the police,” and “Racist, killer cops.” Officers have been assassinated by Black Lives Matter-inspired killers who set out to kill whites in general and white police officers in particular.

Gun murders of law enforcement officers are up 67 percent this year through November 23, following five ambushes and attacks over the November 18 weekend that left a San Antonio police officer and a U.S. Marshall dead. A few days before those weekend shootings, anarchist wannabes in Austin led a counting chant based on the template: “What’s better than X dead cops?  X + 1 Dead Cops.”

President Obama welcomed Black Lives Matter activists several times to the White House. He racialized the entire criminal-justice system, repeatedly accusing it of discriminating, often lethally, against blacks. At the memorial service for five Dallas police officers gunned down in July 2016, Obama declared that black parents were right to fear that “something terrible may happen when their child walks out the door”—that the child will be shot by a cop simply for being “stupid.”

A Rosy View of ‘Black Lives Matter’

Obama put Brittany Packnett, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, on his President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Packnett’s postelection essay on Vox, “White People: what is your plan for the Trump presidency?” is emblematic of the racial demonology that is now core Democratic thinking. Packnett announces that she is “tired of continuously being assaulted” by her country with its pervasive “white supremacy.” She calls on “white people” to “deal with what white people cause,” because “people of color have enough work to do for ourselves—to protect, free, and find joy for our people.”

Packnett’s plaint about crushing racial oppression echoes media darling Ta-Nehesi Coates, whose locus classicus of maudlin racial victimology, Between the World and Me, won a prominent place on Obama’s 2015 summer reading list. Coates has received almost every prize that the elite establishment can bestow; Between the World and Me is now a staple of college summer reading lists.

‘Evil of Cops is the Evil of America’

According to Coates, police officers who kill black men are not “uniquely evil”; rather, their evil is the essence of America itself. These “destroyers” (i.e., police officers) are “merely men enforcing the whims of our country, correctly interpreting its heritage and legacy. This legacy aspires to the shackling of black bodies.” In America, Mr. Coates claims, “it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage.”

Coates’s melodramatic rhetoric comes right out of the academy, the inexhaustible source of Democratic identity politics. The Democratic Party is now merely an extension of left-wing campus culture; few institutions exist wherein the skew toward Democratic allegiance is more pronounced. The claims of life-destroying trauma that have convulsed academia since the election are simply a continuation of last year’s campus Black Lives Matter protests, which also claimed that “white privilege” and white oppression were making existence impossible for black students and other favored victim groups.

Black students at Bard College, for example, an elite school in New York’s Hudson Valley, called for an end to “systemic and structural racism on campus . . . so that Black students can go to class without fear.” If any black Bard student had ever been assaulted by a white faculty member, administrator, or student, the record does not reflect it.

Massive Racial Preferences

These claims of “structural racism and institutional oppression,” in the words of Brown University’s allegedly threatened black students, overlook the fact that every selective college in the country employs massive racial preferences in admissions favoring less academically qualified black and Hispanic students over more academically qualified white and Asian ones. Every faculty hiring search is a desperate exercise in finding black and Hispanic candidates whom rival colleges have not already scooped up at inflated prices.

Far from being “post-racial,” campuses spend millions on racially and ethnically separate programming, separate dorms, separate administrators, and separate student centers. They have created entire fields devoted to specializing in one’s own “identity,” so long as that identity is non-white, non-male, or non-heterosexual. The central theme of those identity-based fields is that heterosexual, white (one could also add Christian) males are the source of all injustice in the world.  Speaking on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show in the wake of Trump’s election, Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, author of Look, A White!, called for a nationwide “critique of whiteness,” which, per Yancy, is at the “core side of hegemony” in the U.S.

To combat that hegemony, Democratic administrations in Washington and state capitals have built permanent bureaucracies dedicated to the proposition that white males discriminate against everyone else. Evidence of such discrimination is by now exceedingly rare, however, so “disparate impact” analysis steps into the breach. Police and fire departments, public and private employers, bank lending officers, landlords, insurers, school administrators, and election officials have all been found guilty of discrimination despite following race-neutral procedures. The mandated remedy is a race-conscious policy crafted to favor non-white, non-male “identity.”

Hillary Clinton employed classic Democratic “racialized discourse” throughout the campaign. During a Democratic presidential primary debate in January 2016, Clinton agreed that it was “reality” that police officers see black lives as “cheap.” In a February debate, she accused Wisconsin, along with other states, of “really systemic racism” in education and employment.

‘Basket of Deplorables’ Is Campus Rhetoric

In July she called on “white people” to put themselves in the shoes of African-American families who “need to worry” that their child will be killed by a police officer. When Clinton called half of Trump’s supporters “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it” who belonged in a “basket of deplorables,” she was speaking the language of the academy, now incorporated into the Democratic worldview.

Democratic politicians and the media will respond that such charges of systemic white

oppression are not “racialized discourse”; they are simply the truth. Such a claim is an insult to the overwhelming majority of white Americans who harbor no bigotry and who long to live in a truly post-racial society. Many of Trump’s white supporters voted for Obama, and the most conservative whites in the U.S. have had one love affair after another with conservative black media figures and politicians, whether Herman Cain, Alan Keyes, Allen West, Ben Carson, or David Clarke. Yet these former Obama voters and Tea Party supporters are now being called racist for voting for Trump.

Trump’s sally during the first Republican primary debate that “this country doesn’t have time” for “total political correctness” sent a signal that the reigning presumptions about oppression were finally vulnerable. The message resonated. Democrats will have to do much more than invoke traditional Democratic class warfare to convince non-elite white voters that the party does not see them as one of America’s biggest problems.

This essay is reprinted with permission from City Journal, a publication of The Manhattan Institute.

Poll Indicates Race Problems on Campus Greatly Exaggerated

The Knight Foundation survey, conducted by Gallup, of where the First Amendment stands among college students and U.S. adults has several interesting findings.  One of them cuts to the heart of all the other issues of the First Amendment on campus today:

There is a real perception that campuses are not fully open environments. A slight majority of students, 54%, say the climate on their campus prevents some people from saying what they believe because others might find it offensive.

Related: Watch Out for the Campus Bias Team

Nobody should find this an extraordinary rate of self-censorship. Instead, we should wonder about the 46 percent who didn’t think that their campus climate suppresses free speech precisely on the grounds of giving others offense. The phrasing of the question doesn’t cover jokes in bad taste, forms of harassment, vandalism, or discriminatory conduct. A bit of discretion and other-awareness is one of the costs of living in polite society. But this goes beyond basic manners and touches on the core of an academic environment — the freedom to press an argument some find disagreeable (as long as you do so with evidence and reasoning).  It asks about people’s intellectual statements, about “what they believe”–opinions, norms, values.

The reply shows how far belief has been submitted to sensitivities. Even 19-year-olds now understand that the measure of their thoughts on topics of race and sexuality is the possible reaction of someone, somewhere, who might not be able to sleep that night after hearing those words. It has only taken a few instances of an indiscreet professor or administrator who muttered the wrong words, aroused a protest, apologized profusely for offending others, and slunk off in shame for everyone to get the message. Keep your head down and your mouth shut.

There is another finding in the study that attributes the shutdown of belief entirely to the sensitivities of the complainers, not to the reality of the campus.  When students were asked about the racial climate of their campus, 26 percent termed it “excellent” and 48 percent good.  That makes three-quarters of all students who have no concerns about systemic racial tensions or problems.  Only a mere six percent rated the climate “poor.”

Within this response, too, we find that only 13 percent of black students gave the “poor” rating.

Related: Race Baiting in the Name of Justice

This makes for an astonishing contrast.  More than half of students see a “chilling” climate for speech, while barely one-in-twenty see a bad climate for race relations.  We know that much of the censorship and offense-taking has to do with race issues, and yet the vast majority of students find that there is no general basis for curtailing speech because of them.

What this suggests is that racial problems on campus have been vastly exaggerated–at least according to the students. The relatively rare racial episode has produced an overreaction. More than two-thirds of students (69%) say that they rarely or never hear anyone make “insensitive comments about someone’s race, ethnicity, or religion.” Given the low bar that the category “insensitive comments” sets, we may assume that the rate of outright nastiness is much lower.

Given the many forms of coarseness that adolescents are disposed to on-line and off-, we should broadcast this finding as a triumph of civility. Indeed, this poll provides abundant evidence against the accusations leveled against colleges in the heated student protests of 2015-16. We all know that Oberlin, Wesleyan, and all the other selective campuses targeted by the students are some of the most progressive and sensitive acres on earth. Now, in this poll, the vast majority of students say the same thing.

I suspect, however, that students know this already.  They also know that they can do nothing about the exaggerations.  They have seen that college administrators and many professors, too, are willing to go along with them and pretend as if they indicated something real and pervasive at work on their campuses.  Again, it only takes one example of the people in power countenancing a patent falsehood for the underlings to realize that truth is no defense.

Let me give you an example.

One year after I arrived at Emory in 1989, a racial incident happened.  An African American pre-med student named Sabrina Collins landed in the hospital, mute and traumatized, after finding racist death threats in her dorm room. Her case became a national story, reported in the New York Times and USA Today as well as in the local media.

On March 5, someone had entered her dorm room, scrawled racial epithets, tore her stuffed animals, and poured bleach on her clothing. She reported the incident, and Emory offered safe haven for her and her family off campus plus options for completing her schoolwork. Collins declined, so more locks were placed on her door and a motion detector and alarm system installed.  She decided to move out weeks later, however, and as she was doing so, she discovered more racist threats written in nail polish on the floor under a throw-rug. That’s what threw her into a catatonic silence that continued while she recuperated in a hospital in Augusta.

Dekalb County police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation began an inquiry to try to track down the perpetrator. The U.S. Attorney in Atlanta offered to help. Campus officials went into crisis-management mode as protests erupted. One group, Students Against Racial Inequality, judged Emory “a hostile environment for people of African descent.” The leaders of it gave the president 12 demands, including new centers for the study of African American culture, more African American enrollments and professors, and the dismissal of the head of public safety.

I remember the incident and the feeling of disgust.  What coward would pick on this poor girl? I thought. She deserves all the support we can give her. A few weeks later, while driving to work, I heard the issue come up on local talk radio, everyone solemnly denouncing the deed as I presumed they should.  But then one young man phoned in and said in a halting voice something entirely unexpected. I don’t recall the exact words, but they went something like this:

I know this sounds hard to believe, but this situation may not be what you all think. It looks to me like she may have made the whole thing up. That’s what I’ve heard from some people who know.

The host challenged him, and the caller delicately but firmly stuck to his suspicion.  My first response was incredulity. You gotta be kidding.  Who would make up something like this up?

Well, not long after the case fell apart. Yes, Collins fabricated the whole thing. On May 31, the New York Times printed a story under the headline, “Woman’s Claim of Racial Crime Is Called a Hoax.” Investigators said that all the evidence pointed back to Collins—fingerprint analysis, the paper and typeface used to make the threats, and the fact that the death threat misspelled the word “you’re” as “your,” an error found in Collins’ own writing.  Her symptoms—traumatic muteness, holding herself for hours in a fetal ball—were faked.  There was an added speculation by some people that Collins conceived the hoax to distract attention from an Honor Code investigation of her regarding a chemistry exam.

Here is where the duplicity of the administration comes in.  When the truth came out, the administrators played it down. “University officials,” the Times reported, “who have tried to steer clear of assessing blame, had little comment today.”

But the advocates didn’t do the same. Here is one of them, whose remarks conclude the Times story:

Otis Smith, president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who earlier assailed Emory, said the new findings were largely irrelevant. ”It doesn’t matter to me whether she did it or not,” he said, ”because of all the pressure these black students are under at these predominantly white schools. If this will highlight it, if it will bring it to the attention of the public, I have no problem with that.”

How familiar has this rationale become?  A victim turns out to be not a victim at all, according to the facts—but then she really is a victim because of a pervasive reality that underlies those facts.  Lying to expose a bigger truth is no lie, even if there is no evidence of that larger truth except for the distraught condition of the victim.  When someone says, “It doesn’t matter whether she did it or not,” and the school leaders don’t come right out and assert, “Yes, it does!” everybody else learns the lesson.  You don’t have to have done something to be convicted of doing it. Emory University and all the white people in it were tried and found innocent of the specific charges but walked away guilty of the general charge of being a “predominantly white institution” that makes life terribly hard for black students.

I didn’t see any news stories on the follow-up treatment of Ms. Collins, but I heard that Emory proceeded to cover all of her medical bills.  Here is how an undergraduate in Emory Magazine recalled the whole episode 20 years later:

A statewide investigation deemed the alleged hate crime a hoax a few months later, but its impact on the Emory community was anything but inauthentic. In the wake of that incident, students banded together to raise cultural awareness on campus.

Again, the same rationale for deceit prevailed. The crime was a sham, but the response “authentic.”  Ms. Collins’ hoax proved to have a salutary impact, raising awareness and uniting students. It’s okay to lie as long as it produces a good outcome.

This way of handling falsehood is an important factor in the self-censorship that afflicts so many people on college campuses. The Knight poll shows how many of them hide their thoughts, and they may be wise to do so in light of the Collins hoax and so many other double-dealing campus episodes of recent times.  If people were confident that allegations of harassment, discrimination, and bias would be settled because of the truth, then they might not choke down their beliefs even if those beliefs proved troubling to others.

But if they assume that they may be denounced no matter what the facts are, so long as one party is distressed—particularly a representative of a historically disadvantaged group—then they certainly will take the safe route and be quiet.

Political Tests for Faculty?

What’s going on when a public university feels entitled to ask potential faculty members questions clearly aimed at ferreting out their political and social commitments? Such questions, reminiscent of loyalty oaths and the demands of totalitarian regimes would seem to have no place in an educational institution in modern-day America.  But for some years now, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, as at many other universities, the administration has allowed and actively encouraged precisely such interrogations.

In fact, the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity at UMass thoughtfully provides Supplemental Search Instructions, including suggestions for typical questions to be asked during interviews. These invite search committees to fill in the blank with the name of the “protected group” of their choice.

Related: How PC Corrupted the Colleges

The suggested questions include the following representative queries:

  • How have you demonstrated your commitment to (____) issues in your current position?
  • Which of your achievements in the area of equity for (____) gives you the most satisfaction?
  • In your current position, have you ever seen a (___) treated unfairly? How would/did you handle it?
  • How many of the top people at your current or previous institution are (___)?
  • What did you do to encourage hiring more (___)?

Where, one may well wonder, in the context of a public university supposedly committed to education rather than indoctrination, could such questions come from?  They turn out to be based on a nearly 30-year-old report entitled, It’s All in What You Ask (Association of American Colleges, Project on the Status and Education of Women, 1988), which contained scores of questions for job searches reaching into every part of the university – faculty, administrators, and staff – all aiming to uncover candidates’ underlying commitments to promoting particular groups.

But where the original document aimed at promoting women and merely mentioned in passing that the questions “can easily be adapted to apply to minority and disabled persons,” UMass Amherst has corrected that narrow perspective by providing its long (but not exhaustive) list of identity groups.

Related: Political Correctness Is the New Puritanism

In other respects, however, the guidelines largely replicate (and credit) the specific language of the original document, which makes no effort to disguise the “gotcha” mentality underlying the entire endeavor, despite a disingenuous assurance that there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. The rationale is spelled out:

When prospective employees are asked, “Are you concerned about and supportive of these [identity group] issues?” they will invariably give an affirmative reply. Unfortunately, that gives little indication of their level of concern or commitment. Asking some of the questions listed [here] may help you gain a better understanding of a candidate’s position on these issues.… Many candidates will not have prepared answers to these questions in advance. These questions will, therefore, be useful in drawing out the candidate’s opinions rather than the “correct answer.”

The problem with these questions may not be primarily their legality—although there should be some concern about the possible unconstitutionality of anything smacking of an ideological qualification. The main problem is the overshadowing of genuine education by the demand for conformity and an explicit display of one’s politics.  The result is likely to be a monolithic corps of new employees, selected for their political commitments as much as, perhaps indeed more than, their professional qualifications.

Nor is this is happening in isolation. It has been accompanied, for years, by an out-of-control growth in administrators and staff whose explicit task is promoting and protecting certain identity groups.  Who knew that after thirty years of tireless efforts, universities would still be in desperate need of measures to combat their allegedly exclusionary policies toward all who aren’t able-bodied heterosexual white males?

All Diversity All the Time

Whereas certain parts of the academic world – Schools of Social Work, for example, and Schools of Education — have for some years insisted on overt expressions (on the part of both students and faculty) of correct political attitudes, it’s important to recognize how such demands are built into the entire job search procedure itself.

In addition, at UMass Amherst, as at other universities around the nation, the key documents about proper search procedures place a persistent and ceaseless emphasis on diversity, as required by equal opportunity regulations. Pages and pages of details are devoted to spelling out the efforts to identify and recruit “diverse” candidates, providing suggestions for every stage of the process.  Ironically, detailed lists are also provided of questions that are prohibited (having to do with ethnicity, race, gender, national origin, ancestry, and so on.  And to ensure that this process is fully complied with, search committees must meet with a representative of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity for orientation and “coaching” sessions.

Yet, though we are repeatedly told that, “An applicant’s potential contribution to workforce diversity is an asset that should be carefully considered,” at the completion of the search process, everything changes. Despite the relentless emphasis on “diversity-enhancing measures” up to this point, and the careful documentation of these efforts that are required, when final recommendations are made by the search committee and sent up the chain of command, we are told that the candidates’ race, sex, and other identity markers should not be mentioned, only the excellence of their qualifications:

When describing candidates’ strengths and weaknesses, the committee’s rationale must focus strictly on their qualifications for the job itself. Do NOT comment on their race, ethnicity, accent, personal appearance, clothing, personality, age or maturity, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or marital status. . . . The process will move much faster if the Chair, or, as a last resort, the Dean has made sure that all recommendations focus on qualifications for the job and do not make inappropriate references to protected personal characteristics.

In other words, after dominating the search and hiring procedure in multiple ways, the obsession with identity politics needs to be disguised at the very end, when all talk reverts to academic qualifications alone.

Thus, to the entire overdetermined process is added, at the last stage, a whiff of utter fraudulence. There’s the part where everyone is put through their diversity paces; then there’s the part where you cover it up.

An Illegal Program OCR Won’t Strike Down

In my research as a labor economist, I discovered that the Lawton program, offering aid exclusively to minority and disadvantaged students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is operating illegally—Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits Federal aid going to members of certain racial and ethnic groups, and not others, as Lawton does. That was 11 years ago, and the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education still hasn’t managed to rule on my formal complaints.

Not that there is any doubt about the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grants. Eligibility continues to be restricted to minority groups specified as “African American, Hispanic American, Native American, South East Asians.”

To my periodic inquiries about the delay in ruling, OCR offers several stock responses.  It claims in a February 2009 letter that my complaints “involve highly complex legal issues.” OCR claims in that same letter it “is proceeding as expeditiously as possible.” In an October 2013 letter OCR refers again to the “complexity of the issues involved.”

Anyone wanting to inquire about the status of my complaints or any other unresolved complaints will be frustrated by OCR’s record-keeping practices. Based on a recent FOIA request for a chronological listing of all Title VI complaints filed against post-secondary institutions, I discovered that OCR no longer lists the names of institutions whose long-standing complaints have not been resolved. I could identify my complaints only because I knew their docket numbers and the dates they were filed.

The cards seem to be stacked against any quick ruling on my complaints. I suspect UW is trying to find some way to rationalize its continuing discrimination under the Lawton Program. At the same time, I suspect OCR is trying to find some way to avoid ruling that the UW is violating Title VI. The likely reason: concern that doing so would jeopardize similar racially-exclusive scholarship programs at other colleges and universities.

Asian Americans Move Against Harvard

Several years ago a Korean student in one of my precept classes at Princeton told me of the shock and anger among Asian students at his expensive California private high school when college acceptance letters arrived in late spring.  What really stoked the anger of many of his Asian classmates, he said, was the fact that the student in his class who did best in the college admission process was a Black female who applied to several of the most competitive universities in the nation and gained acceptance to every one of them, eventually choosing to enroll in Stanford.

“There were loads of Asian students with much better grades, much higher SAT scores, and who were much more active in the student council and a host of other extracurricular activities,” he said. To add insult to injury, he went on, this particular female student had a cold, off-putting, unfriendly personality — “she didn’t make it on charm” was the thrust of his additional remarks.  To many classmates the college admission system seemed rigged against Asians and absurdly tilted in favor of Blacks.

High SAT scores, top grades, extracurricular activities, and an ingratiating charm may not have been the strong suit of this particular Black prep school student,  but as those of us who have kept abreast of college admissions policies over the years know, being an “under-represented minority” can make up for a lot of lost ground.  Checking off the “Black” box on a college application rather than “Asian,” far from being the slight “thumb on the scale” that college administrators would like outsiders to believe, can be an enormous advantage in the college admission process, often counting as much or more than being a top athletic recruit.

In a widely publicized study of eight highly competitive colleges and universities, sociologists Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford found that on an “other things equal” basis in which adjustments were made for a large number of background factors, the Black-over-Asian advantage in college admissions was equivalent to 450 SAT points on a 1600 point scale (e.g. an 1100 Black score, other things being equal, carried the same weight in admissions as an Asian score of 1550).

Ceiling Quotas

Although they will invariably lie about it, many of the country’s top colleges and universities — including all of the Ivies — have informal “ceiling quotas” for Asian students, and informal “minimum quotas” for Blacks, not wanting “too many” of the one or “too few” of the other. Applicants from the high-achieving Asian group are at a huge disadvantage in the admissions process compared to both Black and Latino applicants since the universities resort to something very much like “race norming” — i.e. “within racial group” competition in which Asians, Latinos, and Blacks essentially compete only among themselves for a predetermined number of admits based on what is seen as a desirable racial balance.

The numerical quota and desired racial balance are slightly flexible in that they are allowed to vary within a narrow range from year to year depending on the quality of the applications received, but they are not permitted to stray too far from a predetermined racial proportionality goal.  Applicants from the different ethno-racial groups most certainly do not compete on a merit-only basis among the total applicant pool — a system that would lead to a huge increase in the number of Asian students and a corresponding decline in the number of both Blacks and Latinos. Merit-based systems, like those forced by popular ballot initiative upon Berkeley and UCLA, produce what most academic administrators at the Ivy League universities find unacceptable — i.e. a huge “over-representation” of the high achieving Asians and a corresponding “under-representation” of the much lower achieving Blacks and Latinos.

A Turn to Litigation

Despite the fact that they have been injured the most by racial preference policies, Asians throughout most of the affirmative action era have been rather quiescent in terms of public protest.  Like the Korean student in my precept class, individual Asians will protest privately what they see as outrageous racial double standards in university admissions, but they have not shown much interest in organized protest.  However, things may be changing, and the preferred vehicle of change seems to be an aggressive litigation strategy rather than legislative lobbying, campaigns to change public opinion, or organized street protests. In choice of strategies, the Asians of late seem to be following in the footsteps of the old NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, which pursued a similar litigation strategy against racial discrimination in the middle decades of the last century.

Thomas Espenshade describes how the Asian community’s long-simmering anger over affirmative action policies may finally be entering the realm of organized protest.  “Up until five or ten years ago,” Espenshade says, “the [Asian] response [to affirmative action] has been, ‘Well we just have to work harder.’  But over the last decade, more groups are starting to mobilize, saying we don’t have to just accept this, we can push back against it.”

The most recent example of this pushing back occurred earlier this month when a formal complaint against Harvard University was lodged on behalf of a coalition of several dozen Asian groups with the civil rights divisions of both the U.S. Justice and Education departments. Sixty-four Chinese, Korean, Asian Indian, and Pakistani groups, organized under an umbrella organization called the Coalition of Asian American Associations, were alarmed by the much higher standards to which Asians are held in the college admission process and what are in effect implicit Asian ceiling quotas.  Much of the driving force behind the litigation and the organization of the complainants was the work of Yukong Zhao, a 55-year-old Chinese executive from Florida, who is the author of a much-underappreciated book on Confucian values and how they have propelled so many Asians to high levels of achievement in America.

Espenshade and Radford

The Asian group’s complaint reveals a clear understanding of the informal “race-norming” policies in place at Harvard and other elite universities.  “Asian-Americans understand that they are not competing for admission to Harvard against the entire applicant pool,” the Coalition charged in its complaint. “In light of Harvard’s discriminatory admissions policies, they are competing only against each other — all other racial and ethnic groups are insulated from competing against high-achieving Asian-Americans.  Because Asian-Americans congregate at the high end of Harvard’s applicant pool, the competition is fierce.  This has deterred and continues to deter many qualified Asian-Americans from [even] applying to Harvard.”

The Coalition drew upon many sources in its complaint, including the scholarly work of Espenshade and Radford and the important study of quota-like admissions at the eight Ivy League universities presented by Ron Unz in his influential study “The Myth of American Meritocracy.”  It is difficult to read authors like Unz and Espenshade/Radford without concluding, as the Asian Coalition did, that our most elite universities practice something very much like the kind of “within-group” race-norming that has been explicitly prohibited by our Supreme Court as violative of both the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  This is the basis of the Coalition’s legal challenge.

A Second Challenge to Harvard 

Another legal challenge to Harvard’s admissions policies came last November when a group called the Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging what was alleged to be illegal racial preference and racial balancing policies at Harvard College, which discriminate against Asian applicants.  The SFFA group was the brainchild of the anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, who launched a website seeking the names of students who believed they were rejected by Harvard and two other universities because of their race.  Blum had earlier been instrumental in connecting Abigail Fisher with attorneys willing to take on her racial discrimination case against the University of Texas at Austin (i.e. the case that led to the ambiguous Fisher v. Texas decision in 2013).

While not a lawyer himself, Blum describes his legal activities as that of a “Yenta match maker” who brings together those he believes have been the victim of affirmative-action-like prejudice (“reverse discrimination”) with suitable attorneys willing to take their case on a pro bono basis.  “I find the plaintiff,” he explains, “I find the lawyer, and I put them together.”  He receives no money for his activities and is driven entirely by a sense of justice and a sympathy for victims of unseemly race-based public policies.

Harvard seems to be listening. In responding to the discrimination charge of the Asian Coalition, Harvard’s general counsel Robert Iuliano offered the usual boilerplate about “holistic admissions” and a “diverse class,” but he also announced something quite encouraging: the percentage of Asians admitted to Harvard College in its most recent freshmen class had risen to 21 percent.  He gave no reason for this modest rise, but when one considers that the percentage of Asians accepted in the recent past at Harvard College has always fluctuated between the narrow bands of 15-20 percent, one gets the impression that something may be changing.

Harvard, one suspects, is beginning to feel the heat. And in the future one can expect that people like Yukong Zhao, Edward Blum, and better-organized Asian complainants will continue to ratchet up the temperature.  Harvard and other race-norming institutions are on notice:  the days of Asian passivity may be over. The time of Asian protest may have just begun.