Diversi-Lies II
Responsibility-free mendacity.


Six weeks ago, I reported here on the efforts of Scott Dillon, a Indiana University at Bloomington law student, to call his law school to account for submitting a misleading amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The school had rushed to support the University of Michigan’s use of racial preferences in admissions. Indiana University at Bloomington School of Law explained that, in pursuit of diversity, it too exercised some racial preferences but that they were merely one factor among many in the holistic assessment of applicants.

But Dillon had documents showing that, to the contrary, the law school had been using a de facto quota for black students. Moreover, the disparity between the average academic qualifications of black students and all others was substantial. As a former admissions-committee member divulged, “to meet de facto quotas, we leapfrog less qualified minority applicants over approximately 330 more qualified non-minority applicants.”

Indiana University Law School was, of course, just one of a great many institutions of higher learning to submit amicus briefs in support of the University of Michigan. It was part of UM’s legal strategy to inundate the Court with such briefs as evidence that higher education is squarely behind the use of racial preferences. Call it the everybody-does-it defense.

“Everybody-does-it” is, of course, not a principled position. When a child offers it as an explanation for breaking the rules, it is a kind of plea bargain. It means something like, “Yes, I broke your rules, but my fault is mitigated by my need to be part of the community of my peers.” Everybody-does-it is a sanctuary of sorts, a place where the moral strictures of grown-ups are suspended in favor of coolness and daring.

I don’t know but I suspect that Jayson Blair, the fabricating, plagiarizing, miscreant New York Times reporter, who last week was finally fired for his antics, had an “everybody-does-it” excuse working too. After all, Blair was a long-term player of the diversity dodge. He spent his young adult years seeing people in positions of authority such as executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald M. Boyd bend, twist, and suspend the rules on his behalf in order to prove their commitment to diversity. Everybody does it. Why should Blair not play along?

Let’s not conflate the two kinds of rule breaking. It is one thing for Raines and Boyd to ignore the desperate warnings of their subordinates (metropolitan editor Jonathan Landman, April 2002, “We have to stop Jayson from writing for the Times. Right now.”) and quite another thing for the glib con man to file fictitious news stories that nobody has fact-checked.

But if these are two different kinds of dishonesty, they grow on the same tree. The diversity doctrine inherently involves deceit. It urges us to lower standards in admissions, hiring, and promotion to achieve a “looks-like-America” proportionality, but simultaneously to deny that any standards were lowered. Thus the New York Times, with a whole omelet of egg on its face, admits that Blair misbehaved — a lot — but can’t admit that the endless diversity — buys he got from top editors who excused his sloppiness had anything to do with his dishonesty.

Scott Dillon meanwhile has been busy with some honest reporting. It turns out that the magnitude of the University of Indiana Law School’s misrepresentations is much worse than originally appeared.

Dillon was skeptical of the law school’s repeated claim that it evaluated every applicant’s credentials “as a whole,” giving no extraordinary weight to race. The amicus brief, for example, asserts that in the admissions committee’s eyes, “No single non-academic factor is determinative or is necessarily given greater weight than any other.”

Unless the lawyers at IU are playing Clintonian games with the meanings of “determinative” and “necessarily” this now looks like a flat-out lie.

Dillon, overcoming months of foot-dragging by the university by filing a state public access complaint, pried loose from the Law School the data on admissions from 1990 to 1999. The results are indeed extraordinary. As Dillon explains, “For each year for almost a decade, the average black student offered admission had an LSAT score of roughly the 30th percentile nationally, while the average non-minority admit had an LSAT score in roughly the 80th percentile.” In view of this 50-point gap, what is “race” in UI Law School admissions if not “determinative?” And if claiming an African-American identity does not “necessarily” count more than any other factor, what other factor makes up for a 50-percentile point deficit on the LSAT?

The school oddly claims that it ceased keeping the data after 1999. Perhaps it did, although that seems a little strange at a time when the school continued to be vigorously interested in pursuing racial preferences.

Dillon, thinking that his fellow law-school students should see the data, on May 6 wrote a cover note and distributed copies of the material by putting them in envelopes and stuffing 500-some student mailboxes. Very few of his fellow law students, however, got their mail. Shortly after Dillon distributed his packet, someone went through the mailboxes, seized the envelopes, and made off with them.

This is a variation on an all-too-familiar campus theme. In the last several years, Leftist groups stole large quantities of student newspapers at Berkeley, Brown, Cornell, Tufts, Yale, and even the California State University at Sacramento when those papers printed something they disliked. This do-it-yourself censorship often provoked no more than yawns from the university administrators who are charged to protect the free exchange of ideas on campus. IU was true to form, with law dean Lauren Robel initially responding to the theft with a skeptical e-mail to students saying that Dillon “believes” his mailing had been “removed.” No, he reported the fact that it had been stolen.

No one has claimed responsibility.

But as the New York Times is helping us understand, when it comes to diversity, no one ever does.

The Indiana University case is perhaps small change in the larger battle over racial preferences. It is, however, a particularly vivid example of the day-in-day-out mendacity that the diversity-movement breeds.

Peter Wood is a professor of anthropology at Boston University and author of Diversity: The Invention of a Concept.