The inherent irony of affirmative action

Gail Heriot Winter Inthe Supreme Court held that the University of Michigan's law school could substantially relax its admissions standards in order to admit a "critical mass" of African-American and Hispanic students. Many observers interpreted that decision — Grutter v. Bollinger — as an open-ended embrace of affirmative action. The University of Texas was among the many universities emboldened to ramp up its use of race-preferential admissions policies.

The inherent irony of affirmative action

The inherent irony of affirmative action

Many observers interpreted that decision — Grutter v. Bollinger — as an open-ended embrace of affirmative action. The University of Texas was among the many universities emboldened to ramp up its use of race-preferential admissions policies.

The result was a lawsuit. The plaintiff — Abigail Fisher — is a young woman from Texas whose academic credentials were good, but not quite up to the standards that whites and Asians must meet in order to gain admission.

They were, however, above those necessary for African-American and Hispanic students. Fisher, who is white, was rejected, and wound up attending the less prestigious and for out-of-state students more expensive Louisiana State University.

Her case — Fisher v. University of Texas — was argued before the Supreme Court in October. It will be decided sometime in the coming months. The Court may decide Fisher on narrow grounds. For example, Grutter permitted Michigan to use racially preferential admissions policies to admit a "critical mass" of African-Americans and Hispanics to its overall student body.

Texas, however, takes the position that it needs "critical mass" not just in its student body as a whole, but in each classroom, program, and major. Classroom-level "critical mass," however, requires much more extensive preferences; it could conceivably justify racial discrimination in course registration and other more aggressive discriminatory practices.

Affirmative-action supporters worry, however, that the Court will take the opportunity to cut back severely on Grutter. Since Grutter was a decision, it may not take much to swing the Court in the opposite direction.

The biggest change since Grutter, though, has nothing to do with Court membership. It is the mounting empirical evidence that race preferences are doing more harm than good — even for their supposed beneficiaries.

If this evidence is correct, we now have fewer African-American physicians, scientists, and engineers than we would have had using race-neutral admissions policies.

We have fewer college professors and lawyers, too. Put more bluntly, affirmative action has backfired. While academically gifted under-represented minority students are hardly rare, there are not enough to satisfy the demand of top schools.

When the most prestigious schools relax their admissions policies in order to admit more minority students, they start a chain reaction, resulting in a substantial credentials gap at nearly all selective schools.

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For example, according to data released by the University of Texas in connection with Fisher, the mean SAT scores out of and mean high-school grade-point averages on a 4. For Asians, the numbers were and 3. The SAT scores for the Asian students placed them in the 93rd percentile of SAT-takers nationwide; the African-American students, meanwhile, were at the 52nd percentile.

This has the predictable effect of lowering the college or professional-school grades the average minority student earns. And the reason is simple: While some students will outperform their entering credentials, just as some students will underperform theirs, most students perform in the range that their entering credentials suggest.

No serious supporter of race-preferential admissions denies this. In their highly influential defense of affirmative action, The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions discussed later in more detailformer Ivy League university presidents William Bowen and Derek Bok candidly admitted that low college grades for affirmative-action beneficiaries present a "sobering picture.

The inherent irony of affirmative action

One example that helps illustrate the consequences of mismatch — how lower entering academic credentials depress both academic performance and grades, and how lower-than-average academic performance and grades in turn harm professional ambitions — is the field of academia.

Their counterparts at non-elite schools, on the other hand, are more likely to persist and to ultimately succeed.

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These counterparts enjoy school, in part because they correctly perceive that they are good at it, and they want to stay on campus to pursue careers in academia. Cole and Barber found that the effect of grades on career ambitions was in fact substantial.

Among those with GPAs at or near 4. These findings build on long-established observations about the importance of grades and perceived achievement. Indeed, as early asUniversity of Chicago sociologist James Davis published research demonstrating that a student who attends a school that is out of his academic league is often put at a professional disadvantage.tionment.

Other types of affirmative action programs exist for characteristics such as gender, religion, sexual preference, and physical impairment. Still other affirmative action programs exist for athletes, residents of particular states, children of alumni, and the like.

9. Harvard and affirmative action are caught in a bind in this.

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For the first time, minority students are alleging that they are harmed by a race based admissions process. If the case goes to trial, it is hard to believe the plaintiffs will not prevail. Scholars defend affirmative action in higher education "the cruel irony of the late s is that by the time we have the proof, decision-makers aren't really listening." "Affirmative.

That process, irony, is hard to explain but easy to see. Affirmative action is not Biblical. The Bible says, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge: I will repay,’ says the Lord. Nov 19,  · Shelby Steele reveals the inherent racism of affirmative action policies and the dehumanizing effects it has on black people.

Marty felt a particular hostility to affirmative action. The irony—which I didn’t dwell on at the time—was that the magazine was itself a hothouse of racial and sexual preference.

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