Destroying the Racial Preference Industrial Complex

The Supreme Court has finally banned racial preferences in higher education. Alas, those familiar with the academy’s penchant for race-related chicanery know that the celebrations may be premature. Yes, few college and university presidents will announce their outright resistance, but many, perhaps most, will surreptitiously find a way to sneak racial preferences back in. Ideologues do not easily surrender when their pet fantasies are thwarted. Some will simply lie. To invoke a term used when southern states dragged their feet after SCOTUS ordered the racial integration of public schools, we may see “massive resistance.”

What can be done, other than yet more lawsuits to compel colleges to follow the law? Let me suggest that opponents of racial preferences take a page from post-WWII U.S. policy regarding Germany and Japan: de-militarization, in which the U.S. permitted these former enemies to keep a small national defense force, but nothing more. The expectation was that Japan and Germany might revert to their militarist way, but absent the means to invade their neighbors, this urge would come to naught.

The same logic can be applied to today’s universities—let them endlessly pontificate about how diversity is their strength, how a diverse student body enriches learning, and how affirmative action is a vital means to achieve racial justice, but forbid them from possessing the tools to implement illegal schemes. In a phrase, ban the Racial Preference Industrial Complex (RPIC). After all, why should schools spend money promoting policies that the Supreme Court has declared illegal? Why not apply the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause to academic hiring?

The first to go would be all the well-paid deans of diversity and inclusion (and their staff), whose sole purpose is to serve as racial-preference commissars. These are the functionaries who now devote countless hours to ensure that physics syllabi contain DIE statements to make students of color feel welcome, or that dining services don’t offend thin-skinned minorities by scheduling a Taco Tuesday.

It is not that campuses will be so racially homogeneous that there is no longer any need for diversocrats to smooth things out. According to an analysis by Duke University economist Peter Arcidiacono, if only test scores mattered, Asians would constitute 51.5% of the Harvard undergraduate student body, while blacks would make up a mere 0.76%. Hispanics would number 2.69%. (The data are presented here). Even these remarkable statistics do not tell the full story, since many of these super-smart Harvard blacks may be African or Caribbean immigrants, not descendants of American slaves, the ostensible targets of affirmative action.

[Related: “Legalizing Discrimination in California—Take Two”]

In response to the new meritocracy, Harvard’s Office of Student Affairs might, for example, hire experts attuned to the cultural differences between American-born Chinese students, Chinese students from Taiwan, Chinese students from the Peoples’ Republic of China, and those from the Chinese Diaspora. Given that students of Chinese ancestry may constitute half of the student body, this makes more sense that hiring countless functionaries who serve only a tiny sliver of the student population.

To be sure, the number of minority students at non-elite schools would be greater, but even then, the Court’s recent decision suggests that their numbers would not justify the current bloated bureaucracy. Moreover, this bloat may shrink if schools apply the Court’s edict to administrative appointments, for example, hiring a white person to run the Office of Minority Student Affairs.

Next on the chopping block are all the remedial services that owe their existence to admitting students who are unable to compete with their more qualified classmates. After all, if all admitted students “are qualified,” as some proponents of racial preferences insist, why fund a remediation bureaucracy? In fact, the school legal department might warn its employer that the very existence of remedial services undercuts the school’s legal position that it only admits qualified students, and that black admittees are, indeed, just as qualified as higher-scoring whites and Asians.

Similarly expendable are all those who toil in the admissions office to discover diamonds in the rough, i.e., very bright students with poor academic records, who overwhelmingly “just happen to be black.” The Court’s decision was certainly aware of this ruse to accomplish indirectly what could not be accomplished directly and singled it out with a warning. The same applies to all the outreach programs that exclusively target minorities.

What about the political consequences of this disinvestment? Given higher education’s dependence on public funding, from direct subsidies to federal research grants, the political fallout from sudden, massive layoffs of blacks will be immense. The thousands of employees who owe their positions to academically marginal blacks will not go quietly. Schools will thus be caught between the political pressure to keep the RPIC alive and the Supreme Court’s edict that bans these preferences.

[Related: “The Beginning of the End for Racial Preferences”]

Happily, most of this unnecessary, race-based bureaucracy will wilt as enrollments decline, without draconian administrative intervention. This will be particularly true for majors whose principle (but unvoiced) purpose is to help African Americans survive academically (e.g., African American Studies), as well as race-themed courses in traditional disciplines such as sociology. Financial necessity will be the driving force—with the coming influx of Asians, money allocated to scarcely populated grievance studies courses will be shifted to the sciences and engineering.

Colleges and universities also have plenty of experience with downsizing as the popularity of disciplines waxes and wanes. Attrition and early retirement buyouts have long been part of how schools adjust to changing conditions. English was once a big draw, but with declining enrollments, retirees are not replaced, while their courses are now taught by easily terminated adjuncts on one-year contracts. Departments can be combined to lower administrative overhead as out-of-style majors are allowed to fade into oblivion (e.g., languages). “Obsolete” administrators and professors can re-tool and, thus, shift to positions that have nothing to do with race. As with corporations, an outplacement office can help find new jobs elsewhere for these now-unnecessary deans of diversity. Nobody loses their job, yet the RPIC slowly withers away.

In fact, the racial “deindustrialization” has already begun. Florida has enacted a law banning the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) in both K–12 and higher education, which it defines as instruction that “distort[s] significant historical events or include[s] a curriculum that teaches identity politics.” Texas is currently considering a similar law to ban CRT-themed instruction. The City College of New York just ended its vast remedial instruction program, a program designed to help enroll black and Hispanic students, and replaced remedial tutoring with “corequisite courses” that provide regular course credit along with extra academic help. In short, the power of the purse can help end racial preferences.

One of the takeaways of this long, but largely ineffectual, saga to eliminate campus racial preferences is that the schools themselves are unwilling to pull the plug. The merit principle may be valued, but only in the abstract. Junior faculty do not advance up the ladder by endorsing academic excellence at the expense of racial and gender diversity. There are few student groups who are willing to question the premium on diversity over merit. Outsiders, whether they be alumni groups, trustees, or elected officials who pay the bills, may deplore affirmative action, but are usually powerless to reverse it. The most effective opponents of racial preferences are voters, but though they are usually successful, this is a difficult route, and schools may still circumvent these mandates.

The recent decision to ban preferences is just the latest battle in a long war. Proponents of preferences anticipated this outcome and have dug in their heels with such tactics as making the SAT optional and inventing proxies for race such as family income. Winning the battle will thus require rendering the enemy incapable of fighting the long war, not just striking down the latest ruse to sneak in affirmative action disguised as some bizarre method to make college admissions “more fair.” As the U.S. made it impossible for Germany and Japan to again become military powers (at least in the short run), we ought to make it impossible for schools to violate the law and wage war on merit.

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3 thoughts on “Destroying the Racial Preference Industrial Complex

  1. Professor Weissberg neglects to mention that we had “Denazification” in Germany, cumulating with the Nuremburg Trials and punishment of Nazi leaders for “crimes against humanity.”

    MacArthur did the same thing in Japan, but to an even larger extent — essentially imposing American culture and values upon the defeated nation. It worked — much to the chagrin of the American auto and electronics industries. Baseball is more popular in Japan than it is here….

    Demilitarization is what was done to Germany after the first World War and it did not work. Forbidden to have submarines of its own, Germany simply made subs for other countries and thus preserved (and advanced) its ability to manufacture submarines. What’s now the USCG Eagle (WIX-327) was built to teach German naval cadets how to operate and maintain a submarine engine, which it also had.

    Today, nearly 80 years after the end of the war, we have a major military presence in both Germany and Japan. Yes, much of it now logistical with the USAF using places like Ramstein AFB and the USN using Navy Yards throughout Japan to logistically support operations beyond these venues, particularly during the Cold War, the fact is that we never left. Four generations later, we’re still occupying these countries.

    Furthermore, it’s not that we “permitted these former enemies to keep a small national defense force” as much as we made that small force subsidiary to the US military. Germany’s part of NATO and during the Cold War, there were specific US Army units assigned to fight with the Germans in the event of a Soviet invasion. Japan likewise has been closely allied with the US, only now starting to worry about an increasingly bellicose China.

    My point is that it wasn’t demilitarization that changed Germany & Japan as much as it was the American-imposed change in both leadership and beliefs, backed up by the visible presence of an army not of occupation but clearly able to occupy if needed.

    My point is that we need to denazify higher education — much as we said that certain people were no longer allowed to be officials in the post-war German government, we need to say that certain persons are no longer allowed to be higher ed administrators. It’s not good enough to merely move them somewhere else, we need to get rid of them.

    And we need an army of occupation….

      1. Look into the bankruptcy of the PennCentral Railroad.

        There are a whole bunch of reasons why it happened but inside of a decade, two powerful railroads were no more. Higher education today is confronted with some of the very same basic problems that the railroads were circa 1970 — new technologies, changing demographics, and an increasingly alienated customer base.

        Do not forget that the babies not born in 2008 will not be turning 18 in 2026 and hence won’t be incoming freshmen. That’s when higher education will hit the ledge — it’s been in trouble for over a decade now with both fewer in the cohort and even fewer of those going to college, but the ledge will be found in the fall of 2026.

        Professor Weissberg did not mention the Roman solution to the problem of Carthage — as you may recall, they not only leveled everything but plowed salt into the earth so that crops wouldn’t grow — thus ensuring that Carthage would never again exist. There is a part of me which thinks that is the only solution to the problem that higher education has become, and hence I found Professor Weissberg’s comments to be quite interesting.

        I merely pointed out that we did a bit more than merely “demilitarize” Germany and Japan — we changed the cultures of the conquered countries. We did it through force, through implicit threat of force — but through the strength of our character. Stalin never expected that we would really do the Berlin Airlift and the Germans definitely didn’t as they wouldn’t have. We didn’t “occupy” those countries for long, and my point about higher education needing an army of occupation was made half in jest.

        But we weren’t going to tolerate a return of Nazism, and we need to do something to ensure that the craziness is purged from higher education. (Yes, “purged.”) Or we can simply plow salt into the earth.

        And as to “running for President”, there is a growing political movement, with leaders far able than I, advocating a reform to the higher ed gulag.

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