There may be, at least in theory, exceptional cases in which it is reasonable and just for a government to treat its citizens differently on the basis of their race. However, America decided, both in 1868 and again in 1964 and 1972, to ban all such racial discrimination by government and government-aided schools. In the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the American people agreed to give extraordinary powers to the federal government to combat racial discrimination, with the explicit understanding that this meant an end to all such discrimination, whether for or against the majority. Unfortunately, in 1969 a cynical Nixon Labor Department revived overt racial discrimination under the Orwellian label of “affirmative action”.
With the Bakke decision in 1978 (confirmed by the 2003 Michigan cases, Grutter and Gratz), narrow majorities of Supreme Court Justices have embraced racial discrimination in higher education, despite the clear language and unambiguous legislative history of the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act. The Court used as its central precedent the notorious decision of Korematsu (1944), in which the Court ruled that it the ‘compelling state interest’ of victory in war permitted the federal government to disregard the 14th amendment’s prohibition of unequal treatment of different races, legitimizing the imprisonment of thousands of Japanese-Americans. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that the Court erred in Korematsu: equal protection should be absolute, admitting no exceptions whatsoever. In Bakke, the Court tacked in the opposite direction, ruling that racial diversity in higher education was a compelling state interest, functionally equivalent to our interest in victory in World War II! Preposterous! If something as nebulous and unproven as the educational value of racial diversity counts as a ‘compelling state interest’, anything does, making the Fourteenth Amendment into a piece of meaningless decoration,
Besides contempt for the rule of law, racial discrimination in education teaches contempt for democracy. It is no accident that such discrimination in Texas has never been authorized by our elected legislature or by a plebiscite. Surveys consistently show strong majorities (well above 70%), even among blacks and Hispanics, to oppose such policies. Discrimination is always the product of unelected bureaucrats, insulated from accountability to the public they are supposed to serve.
What is the impact on the black students who are admitted as a result of discrimination? We can get one measure of this by looking at comparative graduation rates: black students are significantly less likely to graduate from UT-Austin than are white or Asian-American students. For example, only 39.1% of blacks graduate in four years, as opposed to 56.8% and 54.7% of whites and Asians. Only 62.6% of blacks graduate in five years, and only 65.9% (fewer than 2/3) in six years, compared to 78.5% and 82.5% of whites.
The least onerous way to raise graduation rates for all students is to create safe havens within the university, pockets of grade inflation within which nearly all students will graduate. That this is happening can be seen by looking at the trend line for average grades at UT: from a C (2.60) in 1982 to a B (3.12) in 2007. GPA averages are notoriously divergent across campus, with averages in Liberal Arts, Communications and Educations a full letter-grade higher than in the Natural Sciences or Architecture. Students who might have become the scientists, engineers and doctors of the future, had they attended colleges better fitted to their level of preparation for college, find themselves instead (after an investment of five or six years) with (at best) degrees in narrow and fashionable subjects that neither ennoble the mind with the best that has been written or thought in human history, nor provide students with a credential that prepares them for a prosperous career..
In principle, it makes sense to develop future leaders who are comfortable working with the many different kinds of people living in Texas. However, if the goal is to expose students to a diversity of ethnicities, why does UT’s Diversity division encourage a re-segregation of the campus? UT’s so-called “Multicultural Engagement Center” sponsors the following groups: Afrikan (sic) American Affairs organization, Latina/o Leadership Council, Asian Desi Pacific Islander American Collective, Longhorn American Indian Council. The center should be re-named “Monocultural Isolation”. The official UT Student Events Center also maintains separate African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic-American Culture Committees. There are also recognized student organizations representing ethnic groups that are not historically disadvantaged, such as a European Students Association, but this further illustrates the lack of true cross-cultural engagement. Today’s “multicultural” campus rejects the model of a melting pot in favor of a re-segregated system of “separate but equal” centers and programs, revealing the hypocrisy of the appeal to “diversity” as an educational imperative.
Next time: a fair and constructive alternative.