With yet another affirmative action case reaching the Supreme Court just months after the last decision, and with that previous decision likely to produce multiple local challenges to admissions procedures at selective colleges across the country, we might ask whether the courts are the best place to settle this divisive issue of racial preferences.
The Grutter judgment of 2003 didn’t lower the controversy, and neither did the Fisher judgment of 2013, and the upcoming Schuette case won’t, either. People on both sides don’t just disagree. They bring a passionate sense of fairness to the debate that puts the opposition on the side of unfairness. Whichever side loses each skirmish in the issue doesn’t only feel defeated -- it feels wronged, and that inspires only further legal action.
Instead of having lawyers and judges determine the future of racial preferences, perhaps we should appeal to the group affected by them most: college applicants. They have usually been the plaintiffs in cases over the years, and outcomes have turned on data relative to admitted students, so why not ask them to address the controversy? In fact, they have the power to resolve the issue entirely, to everyone’s satisfaction, and they can do it voluntarily and on principle.
The strategem is simple. The 2012 American Freshman Survey reports that 30 percent of first-year college students are “Liberal” or “Far Left,” while nearly half of them declare themselves “Middle-of-the-Road” (47.5 percent). I assume that all the liberal or left students favor racial preferences in college admissions and half of the moderates do. Over all, white students make up 70 percent of the entire first-year student population. This yields a significant portion of white college students who endorse the policy, perhaps one-quarter to one-third of the overall student population. After all, when the American Freshman Survey posed to respondents the assertion, “Racial discrimination is no longer a major problem in America,” only 23 percent agreed.
What would happen if all those white students who assert that racism is still a “major problem” and who approve of affirmative action as one remedy followed their beliefs and did not apply to selective colleges such as Williams, Wesleyan, Boulder and U.Va.? How would that alter the demographics of elite campuses?
The admissions offices at those schools would face a less-competitive white applicant pool and could boost minority acceptances. Thousands of white students with eight AP courses, a 4.0+ GPA, and 95th-percentile SAT scores would not join the mix and raise the averages.
Given their strong support of racial diversity, the schools would rejoice at not having to engage in dicey racial engineering, and students themselves would act on their convictions. If they espouse diversity, they won’t attend colleges with low African American and Hispanic make-ups. Wesleyan University reports that only 7 percent of the student body is “Black or African American," NYU only 4.3 percent. Dartmouth is 8.75 percent Hispanic/Latino,Duke 6.6 percent. Liberal white students (and liberal white parents) should shun them until the ratio matches up with the general population.
Nobody would object and the debate would end. Liberals would support it because it delivers the revered goal of racial diversity, while conservatives would approve because it comes from individual initiative, not state mandate.
Conservative white students may still apply where they wish, and though liberals may accuse them of hindering racial justice, conservatives may reply, “You have behaved consistently with your beliefs -- let me do the same.” In but a few years, the college campus would no longer be a legal battle zone or a hive of racial resentments.
It sounds altogether unrealistic, of course, given the magical prestige of the words Princeton, Columbia, Harvard, et al.
For many people, applying elsewhere means giving up a legacy, forgoing an ambition, perhaps sacrificing a better future. That’s true, but increasingly to a lesser extent, critics now arguing that the cachet of elite institutions is overdone and that their price tag is inflated.
Employers today rely less on G.P.A. and institution and more on interviews and internships when making hiring decisions.
Not only that, but we shouldn’t ignore the hypocrisy of advancing a racially diverse society through affirmative action mechanisms, while refusing to participate in it on one’s own. If racial diversity in elite spaces is so important, does an individual who might get into Williams but goes to UMass-Boston look like a disappointment?
Mark Bauerlein is professor of English at Emory University.
The website Biology-Online has fired an employee whose response to a postdoc infuriated many who learned of the incident. An employee known only as Ofek recruited Danielle Lee, a postdoctoral fellow at Oklahoma State University, and author of a blog called "The Urban Scientist" to write for Biology-Online. When she turned him down, after being told that Biology-Online did not intend to pay her, Ofek responded: "Because we don't pay for blog entries? Are you an urban scientist or an urban whore?" After Lee shared the story on her blog (which appears on the website of Scientific American) and that magazine removed the post, anger spread on the Internet, with many researchers lamenting the way minority and female scientists are treated.
On Monday, Biology-Online posted a statement that said in part: "We would like to express our sincerest apologies to Danielle N. Lee (DNLee) and anyone else who may have been offended by the way our recently hired employee, Ofek, handled the conversation with her. Ofek's behaviour was completely out of line and after gathering the facts we immediately terminated his employment. Ofek failed to show the respect and prudent behavior expected of him as a contributor to Biology-Online."
Submitted by Paul Fain on October 15, 2013 - 3:00am
Newly-released data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center tracks how 2.3 million high school graduates fared in transitioning to college over a three-year period. The report from the nonprofit Clearinghouse sets benchmarks for the college-going rates of public high school graduates, with specific categories for low-income, high-minority and urban high schools.
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, on Monday released an audit he commissioned that found possible fraud and waste, conflicts of interest and poor governance at Alabama State University, The Montgomery Advertiser reported. The governor's office said that the report had been turned over to state and federal authorities. Further, the governor called on Alabama State's board to stop a search for a new president until some of the issues raised in the audit could be resolved. The university responded with a statement saying that the governor had violated an agreement to allow Alabama State officials to review and respond to the findings. The university's statement questioned many of the findings, and said that the findings were suspect because they came from "a firm that was handpicked by the governor without a bid and was paid for by funds under his control."
The student who wrote the "Luring Your Rapebait" e-mail to his Georgia Institute of Technology fraternity brothers -- an e-mail that went viral, infuriating many people -- has issued an apology. The e-mail described techniques for getting women drunk at parties with the goal of taking advantage of their drunkenness. In the apology -- published in Georgia Tech's student newspaper -- the author says that his fraternity nickname is "4th Grade Rape Bait" because of "my youthful looks and the connotation of what may happen to someone like me in prison." While the author, identified only as Matthew, offers that explanation, he does not defend himself. "In retrospect, it was a nickname I should not have embraced but continuing to use the term was my fault. As a leader I should have put a stop to it in any reference," he wrote.
"Misogynistic behavior is everywhere online and unfortunately, my attempt to ridicule it in an immature and outrageous satire backfired terribly and in a manner I mistakenly underestimated," Matthew added. "In fact the 'locker room' banter that characterizes this e-mail was wrong in and of itself whether or not contained in a written communication. I am both embarrassed and ashamed at this dialogue and realize now that any sexual statement that is demeaning to women is never a joke."
Officials at Georgia Institute of Technology are investigating an e-mail sent by a Phi Kappa Tau member to his fraternity brothers on "luring your rapebait," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "The institute does not condone this type of behavior and continues to provide resources and education designed to create a supportive campus environment for all students, even those who exercise extremely poor judgment," said the statement. The e-mail, which appeared on several websites Monday, outlines strategies for getting women drunk and having sex with them.
Officials of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation on Thursday announced plans to create a tribal college in California, opening near Sacramento next year, The Sacramento Bee reported. Supporters of the project noted that California has the largest population of Native Americans in the United States, but lacks a tribal college. D-Q University was a tribal college in the state, but was shut down in 2005.