By John S. Rosenberg
In my first year of graduate school at Yale, the debate over admitting women to the college was still raging. A joke (or maybe it wasn’t) at that time was that the Old Yalies were perfectly willing for the college to go co-ed — so long as no male who would have been admitted in the absence of co-education was rejected … and the size of the entering class was not increased.
I was reminded of this resistance to co-education by a recent front-page story in The New York Times detailing an extraordinary measure the University of Michigan has taken to increase the “diversity” of its entering class. “The size of the freshman class was cut, by 434 students to 6,071,” The Times reports, “and no one was admitted off the waiting list, which favors higher income — often white and Asian — students, who can afford to put down a deposit to reserve admission at another college while they wait.”
“Think about that,” writes Roger Clegg. “People are refused admission, not just because it was preferable to admit someone of a different color (as bad as that is), but because the school wanted to increase the percentage of some colors of students by denying admission to students of other colors.”
Also think about this: what exactly is the nature — leave aside the value — of the “diversity” that is increased simply by reducing the number of the ‘non-diverse’ admits? Kedra Ishop, Michigan’s associate vice president for enrollment management (who no doubt developed her skills restricting whites and Asians as director of admissions at the University of Texas), must believe that blacks and Hispanics possess only a finite amount of “diversity” to disperse, and that restricting the numbers who benefit in mysterious ways from being exposed to them will thus increase the dose of it each of the non-diverse will receive.
Refusing to admit any applicants from the waiting list because more of them are white and Asian is nothing more, or less, than intentional racial discrimination, different only in degree but not in kind from the ostensibly neutral “grandfather clauses” once used by Southern states to restrict black voting.
It is also not Michigan’s first foray into discrimination by proxy. Its “Descriptor Plus” demographic data analysis program developed in conjunction with the College Board (now called “Segment Analysis Service”) was an attempt to harvest minority students without appearing to do so.
That program segments the entire U.S. population into 180,000 “neighborhoods,” and then places each into one of 30 “clusters” with unique attributes such as mean SAT scores, parental education levels, percentage of high school graduates entering college, and percentage of minority students. “Using these collected attributes and clusters,” the Michigan Review reported, “U-M hopes to preserve current minority enrollment levels while obeying the letter, if not the spirit, of Proposal 2 [which banned the consideration of race].”
According to Teresa Sullivan, now the formerly embattled president of the University of Virginia but then the provost of the University of Michigan (and as a sociologist specializing in labor force demography and affirmative action no doubt heavily involved in the development of “Descriptor Plus”), these demographic indicators are “applied in a holistic admissions evaluation” and “are not simple substitutes for race or ethnicity.”
“Of course they are not ‘simple substitutes for race and ethnicity,’” as I commented here. “They are complex, expensive substitutes.” (For more on the exemplary career of Teresa Sullivan as an affirmative action apparatchik, see my “Was Teresa Sullivan an Affirmative Action Hire?” here and here.)
Michigan’s purely numbers-driven desire to restrict the admission of Asians and whites and its “diversity”-justified discrimination by demographic proxy is both offensive and presumptively illegal. Even Grutter described “outright racial balancing” as “patently unconstitutional,” and in Parents Involved Chief Justice Roberts noted that a fatal flaw of the “racial balance” sought by the school districts is that it was defined “solely by reference to the demographics of the respective school districts.”
John Rosenberg blogs at Discriminations