Phi Beta Cons

Lame Responses from the University of Michigan

The response by the University of Michigan to the studies that the Center for Equal Opportunity released two weeks ago—demonstrating that the school is still engaging in severe racial and ethnic admissions discrimination—has been extraordinarily lame. 

The first assertion is that the release of the studies was politically timed.  Well, that says nothing about their veracity, and we freely admit that we did want Michiganders to be able to know what was at stake before they voted rather than after, but the school really has no one to blame but itself for the relatively late date of the release.  We had asked for the data late last year, but didn’t get anything until this summer, and received nothing about undergraduates until this August.

The second claim is that the studies are flawed because, while they controlled for residency, sex, race, legacy status, SAT/ACT scores, and grade point average, we didn’t control for subjective criteria like admission essays, teacher recommendations, and extracurricular activities.  So is the university suggesting that African Americans really make up for their much lower SAT scores and grades by the fact that their essays are so much better than Asians’, or that Latino extracurricular activities and teacher recommendations leave whites in the dust?  That would be silly:  These subjective criteria are unlikely to break differently along racial lines, and indeed are likely to break pretty much the way that grades and standardized test scores do.  Plus, they are unlikely to be weighed as heavily as grades and tests anyhow, and are irrelevant to other evidence of admissions discrimination in our studies (e.g., differences in post-admission academic performance).
The third claim is that we’re just trying to change the subject from sex to race and ethnicity.  Well, MCRI would ban preferences on the basis any of these characteristics, so all three are fair game for public discussion.  And the suggestion that women should be unconcerned about admissions discrimination rings particularly hollow at this point in time.  After all, the current scuttlebutt is that women are the new “overrepresented” group in higher education—and, thus, are starting to be discriminated against by admissions officers.  So, if what we want to do most is make sure women aren’t discriminated against, then that’s one more reason to vote for MCRI.

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