The Corner

Education

‘Cultural Flavor’ and University Admissions

Some documents recently uncovered at Princeton show that, when awarding a preference on the basis of race or ethnicity, the admissions office wants to make sure that the student being considered has a strong “cultural flavor.” That is, for example, you can’t just be Hispanic, you have to act Hispanic, whatever that means for the admissions office.

Offensive, of course, but unsurprising. After all, the “diversity” rationale for such racial and ethnic discrimination is premised on such stereotyping. That is, there are supposed to be “educational benefits” to exposing students to people with different backgrounds and perspectives; if the recipient of the preference isn’t supplying the different background or perspective, then why give him or her a preference?

Add this to the long list of costs of using racial and ethnic preferences in university admissions: You encourage admissions officers to use stereotypes, and you encourage students to conform to them. Conversely, you discourage people from seeing others and themselves as individuals and as Americans first.

And the other costs of using racial and ethnic preferences? So glad you asked: It is personally unfair, passes over better qualified students, and sets a disturbing legal, political, and moral precedent in allowing racial discrimination; it creates resentment; it stigmatizes the so-called beneficiaries in the eyes of their classmates, teachers, and themselves, as well as future employers, clients, and patients; it mismatches African Americans and Latinos with institutions, setting them up for failure; it fosters a victim mindset, removes the incentive for academic excellence, and encourages separatism; it compromises the academic mission of the university and lowers the overall academic quality of the student body; it creates pressure to discriminate in grading and graduation; it breeds hypocrisy within the school and encourages a scofflaw attitude among college officials; it papers over the real social problem of why so many African Americans and Latinos are academically uncompetitive; and it gets states and schools involved in unsavory activities like deciding which racial and ethnic minorities will be favored and which ones not, and how much blood is needed to establish group membership — an untenable legal regime as America becomes an increasingly multiracial, multiethnic society and as individual Americans are themselves more and more likely to be multiracial and multiethnic.