College Presidents’ Views on Racial Preferences

by Roger Clegg

A survey of college presidents discussed today in Inside Higher Education found that “only 70 percent of campus leaders agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that consideration of race in admissions has had a ‘mostly positive effect on higher education generally,’ and only 58 percent said the use of race in admissions has had ‘a mostly positive effect on education’ at their institutions.” The article notes that the sizeable minority out of “lockstep” with the diversity mantra is in contrast with the public statements and briefs of schools.  

But other surveys have also found surprisingly strong support for nondiscrimination even among academics (to say nothing of the general population). And, as I said in my quote in the article, the relatively low positive response in the survey is probably too high, since presidents are more likely to dissemble about supporting racial preferences than about not supporting them. What’s more, the question was phrased in a way to reinforce the social correctness of a positive response, and more presidents were “generally” positive than positive vis-à-vis “at my institution” — that is, the more they knew about the effect of racial preferences, the less likely they were to support them.

One broader point: To justify racial discrimination in higher education as a legal matter, there have to be “compelling” reasons for it. How compelling can those reasons be if a sizable minority of college presidents don’t view the discrimination as having positive effects at all? Not to mention the fact that most schools don’t use preferences at all — since they are nonselective or are in states that have banned them.