Bench Memos

The New York Times Slams Racial Preferences

Not on purpose, of course, but bear with me. 

There’s a long, front-page story in the New York Times today, showcasing the success that the University of Michigan has had in achieving student-body “diversity” without the use of racial admission preferences. On the article, three observations.

First, the obvious point is that this is bad news for the University of Texas in the Fisher case, since it shows that such preferences are not “narrowly tailored” to the achievement of student-body diversity. (Whether schools ought to be trying to achieve student bodies of a predetermined racial and ethnic mix at all is an even better question.)

Second, as has happened in the past, Lee Bollinger’s mask has slipped. He admits in the article that the reason for the use of admission preferences is not the purported “educational benefits” of a diverse student body, but really “to overcome two centuries of legacies of discrimination and active disempowerment and wealth transfer.” That may warm Ta-Nehisi Coates’s heart, but this purported justification is one the Supreme Court has rejected and, therefore, schools are no longer supposed to be using in litigation. This is of some note since Mr. Bollinger — “who was Michigan’s president during the Supreme Court cases [challenging preferences there in 2003] and now leads Columbia University” — has long been the face of university affirmative action.

Third, it’s chilling that one way the University of Michigan decided to increase its diversity was by admitting nobody off its waiting list and thus shrinking its enrollment, since the list had too many well-off white and Asian American students on it. Think about that: 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. Keep this in mind the next time you’re told that politically correct discrimination is more acceptable than old-fashioned discrimination because the latter was not “inclusive” and the former is.

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