When a policy has been vigorously followed by venerable institutions for more than a generation without getting any closer to producing the desired results, perhaps there is some problem with the goal.
That thought was prompted by a New York Times story headlined “Even With Affirmative Action, Blacks and Hispanics Are More Underrepresented at Top Colleges Than 35 Years Ago.” It presented enrollment data from 100 selective colleges and universities — the eight Ivy League schools, nine University of California campuses, 20 “top” liberal arts colleges, 14 “other top universities” and 50 “flagship” state universities. (They total 100 because UC Berkeley appears in two categories.)
The numbers showed some variation — as one might expect, given states’ different ethnic compositions — but the bottom line was similar. In 2015 — as in 1980, when these statistics were first gathered — blacks and Hispanics were, in the words of the Times headline, “underrepresented.”
In that single awkward word is embedded an important assumption: that in a fair society, the ethnic balance in every institution should resemble that of the larger society. This assumption is behind the “affirmative action” policies that college and university admissions offices have been following with something resembling religious devotion since well before 1980.
That inevitably means violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban on racial discrimination. Unchallengeable data make clear that schools regularly admit blacks and Hispanics with much lower test scores than those classified as whites and, particularly, Asians.
The Supreme Court left an opening for such discrimination in its 1978 Regents of the University of California v. Bakke and 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger decisions, supposedly to encourage “diversity.” But Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote in the Grutter decision, “25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.” That’s 11 years from today.