When it comes to racial preferences, elites seem to believe that their opinions matter more than the democratically expressed will of the majority. Within hours after the people of the state of Michigan rendered a pulverizing blow to state-sponsored racial discrimination, the elites, who know better how to socially engineer society than do the benighted natives of that state, threw down the gauntlet: preferences now, preferences forever.
The day after Michigan voters passed Proposal 2 — also known as the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI) — banning state-sponsored racial, ethnic, and gender preferences, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman issued a statement impressive for its obstinacy and condescension. She asserted that the University of Michigan “will immediately begin exploring legal action” to overturn the proposition that the voters passed 58 percent to 42 percent.
Opponents of racial discrimination, particularly black and Hispanic students, should pray that the University of Michigan litigates, because if the school does go to court, the great emperor of campus diversity will finally be revealed as having no clothes: Not one selective university in the country (save, perhaps, for the service academies) that employs racial preferences in admissions can achieve its diversity goals and still comply with the Supreme Court’s standards in Grutter v. Bollinger. Moreover, not one school will be able to adduce evidence that their version of diversity produces objectively measurable educational benefits.
The preferences given to preferred minorities in college admissions are so powerful that they violate the Supreme Court’s requirement that race not dominate admissions criteria. For example, before Grutter was issued in 2003, University of Texas law professor Lino Graglia noted that the median GPA and LSAT percentiles for admitees to the country’s elite law schools are 3.8 and 98 respectively. Fewer than 20 black law-school applicants in the entire country met those standards. That means that the University of Michigan Law School alone, which has about thirty black law students in each entering class, could admit all of the black students at the median for elite law schools (with ten seats still left to fill), leaving every other top law school in the country with no choice but to admit black students well below the median if it is to reach its diversity goals.
As bad as those figures are, a study released just a few weeks ago by the Center for Equal Opportunity regarding the University of Michigan’s current admissions policies (and using data furnished by the university) shows that the school’s racial preferences have gotten even more severe since Grutter. Given that they can no longer count on a Justice O’Connor to rescue their absurdly unbalanced admissions program, the University of Michigan’s administrators may want to reconsider whether it is wise to raise legal issues that could result in the elimination of racial preferences at every college campus in the country.
Before the university’s administrators expend vast funds trying to overturn Proposal 2, they should at least explain to students, the voters, and taxpayers why the school seeks to perpetuate a program that does manifest and considerable harm to its purported beneficiaries.
Why is it, for example, that the University of Michigan and other selective schools continue to promote racially discriminatory admissions policies that lead to greater academic failure among black and Hispanic students than what results from racially neutral policies? Why do they extol policies that suppress black and Hispanic graduation rates? Is the University of Michigan’s mission to educate and graduate students or is it to placate racial bean counters?
The continued defense of racial discrimination in admissions is no longer contrary just to the principle of equal treatment, but to empirical evidence as well. Perhaps twenty years ago academic elites could hide behind the veil of uninformed good intentions to justify racial preferences; today, hard evidence continues to mount demonstrating that racial preferences have a devastating impact on preferred minorities. Why didn’t President Coleman mention in her address the myriad studies showing that the “benefits of diversity” are, at best, negligible and most likely illusory? Don’t academic elites think that black and Hispanic students should know about (to cite but one example) the studies by UCLA law professor Richard Sander showing that because of the mismatch effect caused by affirmative action (i.e., under-qualified minorities being admitted to schools at which they have difficulty competing) half of black law students cluster at the bottom 10 percent of their respective law-school classes? Would college administrators continue to mouth platitudes about affirmative action if their students knew that preferential admissions cause black law students to flunk out at two-and-a-half times the rate of whites? Or that black law students are six times less likely to pass the bar? Or that half of black law students never become lawyers?
These aren’t the only questions about affirmative action that academic elites strenuously avoid. They also fail to tell Asian students that many, if not most, admissions offices discriminate against Asian applicants in a manner resembling the Jewish quotas of the 1950s. How many Asian students know that their odds of being admitted at selective schools are 200 times worse than those of a similarly qualified black or Hispanic applicant?
In defending affirmative action, President Coleman stated that she “will not allow this university to go down the path of mediocrity.” Yet affirmative action programs are a big reason why remedial programs are proliferating on college campuses. Maybe it’s not the case at the University of Michigan, but at some schools half of all black and Hispanic students require remedial training in subjects they should’ve learned in high school or even middle school.
Hate groups would be hard-pressed to come up with a more insidious plan to retard black and Hispanic advancement. It would be even harder for them to keep students ignorant about the effects of the plan. But for elites, it’s a piece of cake.
– Peter Kirsanow is a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He is also a member of the National Labor Relations Board. These comments do not necessarily reflect the positions of either organization.