A news story here has garnered some attention; it’s about how “Black students at Duke University are angry over a university research paper that found African-American undergraduates at the school are disproportionally more likely to switch from tough majors to easier ones.” There’s not much in it that denies the truth of the paper’s conclusion, but what’s interesting is that the story suggests that many think that researchers should keep such unpleasant facts to themselves:
“The implications and intentions of this research at the hands of our very own prestigious faculty, seemingly without a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the black community is hurtful and alienating,” wrote the officers of Duke’s Black Student Alliance in an email sent to the state NAACP.
The letter from Nana Asante, president of the alliance, challenged the faculty members involved in the research and the university administration to consider “what image has this … report portrayed to the rest of the country, namely our peer institutions, about Duke and its black students?”
Note the suggestion that that research should not be undertaken by those at a school if the results might turn out to be unpopular at, or unfavorable to, the school. The story concludes:
The BSA officers, in the letter, ask what “acknowledgement or intervention took place, in the best interests of black students” by the university administration when the results of the research were known.
They also extended “an invitation to the authors of this research to engage in a dialogue that addresses our concerns about research’s intent, methodology, analysis and conclusion, in addition to its validity.”
Again, the suggestion seems to be that somehow the administration should have intervened once the study’s results were known, and that researchers need to have the right “intent.”
Lest you think that this kind of mindset is peculiar to students, and that grownup faculty know better, take a look at this video. It’s of a debate on affirmative action at Washington & Lee on the day of President Obama’s inauguration. At about the 1:18:00 mark, the professor suggests that black out-of-wedlock birthrates should not be spoken about.
It is no coincidence, comrades, that lurking in the background at Duke, too, was the issue of affirmative action. The news story notes that the paper’s findings suggest that “attempts to increase representation [of minorities] at elite universities through the use of affirmative action may come at a cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of blacks in the natural sciences and engineering.” Worse, the paper was cited in the amicus brief filed this fall by Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander that makes that point in urging the Court to grant review in Fisher v. University of Texas, a challenge to that school’s use of racial and ethnic preferences in undergraduate admissions. No wonder people are upset!