Let the Sunshine In

I’d like to add this to Peter Augustine Lawler’s legislative agenda:  As long as university officials take race and ethnicity into account in admissions decisions, a bill requiring publication of the use of such preferences is necessary. Such a bill would require universities that receive federal funding to report annually in detail on whether and how race, color, and national origin factor into the student admissions process.

Of course, the Supreme Court has, alas, upheld the use of race to achieve the “educational benefits of a more diverse student body” as constitutionally permissible, at least for now, subject to numerous restrictions.  But even if some insist that universities should continue to practice racial discrimination in admissions, there’s no justification for it being done secretly and without taking pains to satisfy the Supreme Court’s requirements.  Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who will likely chair the relevant Senate committee and is an outspoken critic of racial preferences, ought to be supportive.  The same is true of his House counterpart, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights endorsed this approach, including “sunshine” legislation, as a recommendation to the President and Congress in a 2006 report. Likewise, Rep. Steve King (R–IA) introduced similar legislation that would require universities that receive federal financial assistance to disclose data to the U.S. Department of Education on how race, color, and national origin factor into admissions decisions.  As Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis once said, sunshine is “the best of disinfectants.”

You can find a draft of the bill (the “Racial and Ethnic Preferences Disclosure Act of 2014″) and more discussion here.


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