Phi Beta Cons

One Little Industry That Is Doing Fine

I refer to the industry of producing studies that claim to show how vital it is for America to continue policies that give preference in college admissions to students who happen to have certain ancestry. Just off the assembly line is a study on the supposed need for “diversity” in grad schools. IHE covers it here.

Roger Clegg responds with a seven-point rebuttal:

(1) In the runup to Fisher, we will likely see a lot of “studies” like this, by advocates and designed to shore up the crumbling case for racial preferences.

(2) The irony of this particular study is that the weight of research shows more and more clearly that racial and ethnic preferences have HURT African Americans and Latinos and Native Americans in the STEM area. Because of the systematic mismatching of students and schools, those groups admitted with academic qualifications lower than other groups have tended to drop out or switch majors into easier disciplines. This was the conclusion of the recent study at Duke; this is also argued comprehensively in the amicus briefs filed recently with the Supreme Court by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, and by Gail Heriot, Todd Gaziano, and Peter Kirsanow.

(3) In this regard, the study here is just about enrollment — not about graduation. That is a huge hole. And, of course, there may be other confounding factors — like the increase of Asian American and Middle Eastern students, for example, or the economy. Note also that the declines don’t seem to me to be that large, and of course some decline is entirely to be expected when racial preferences are eliminated – this is indeed just evidence that some students were being admitted because of skin color.

(4) There is no showing here that there has been a decline in overall enrollment at these schools — just that some (less qualified) students have been replaced by some other (more qualified) students.   

(5) It cannot be assumed that the students who are turned down here are not admitted somewhere else  — and, if they are admitted to schools where their qualifications are on par with the other students’, they will likely do better.

(6) Even if fewer students of one group are admitted to schools overall as a result of the end of racial preferences, this is not as bad a result as the continued, systematic discrimination on the basis of skin color and national origin. Would we accept an argument that discrimination against Jews had to be continued because there were more and more Gentiles who were losing out to them in med schools admissions? This is no different.

(7) Finally, the argument that we need racial preferences in order to increase the number of certain groups in the STEM area is not one that is being argued by the University of Texas, nor is it one that the Supreme Court has ever recognized. To the contrary, this sounds a lot like the “discrimination for its own sake” that Justice Powell rejected in Bakke. It is, moreover, a silly argument: If we are facing a shortage of “scientific manpower,” there is no reason why we should use race in filling that gap.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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