There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into The University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in the country don’t come from schools like The University of Texas, they come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.—Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, December 9, 2015.
Justice Scalia is on to a key point here, but has been pilloried for these comments and, to be fair, he could have been much more artful in the way he expressed these views, but the fact is that there is good evidence based on credible studies that shows that he is correct in a number of ways that go to the heart of the efficacy of race-based discrimination in college admissions.
Most recently, in October 2015, the National Association of Scholars released a report by Gail Heriot, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and a member of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights, entitled A Dubious Expediency: How Race-Preferential Admissions Policies on Campus Hurt Minority Students. This study confirms in many respects the studies performed by Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor, Jr., the results of which are detailed in their 2012 book, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It, and adds significant new analysis that is compelling. There is little doubt that it is the evidence presented in these works that Scalia referenced and which provides the backbone of his remarks at the hearing.
Since the oral arguments before the court, Sander has written that the gaps in academic preparation are wide, with mean SAT scores among freshmen admitted to The University of Texas outside the state mandated top 10% class rank admissions system reflecting a gap of 390 points higher for whites than for blacks. This is indicative of a large preference, not to mention a huge competitive disadvantage for blacks, lending to the credence of the mismatch problem, however, as he points out, not enough data has been made public to study the matter properly. It’s clear that the lack of transparency is an issue that clouds credibility and that there exists a pattern of denial.
The larger question in Fisher is, how long will we continue to hide behind the smokescreen of a “holistic” (whatever that means) approach to college admissions as a camouflage for discrimination based on race and ethnicity in order to achieve the elusive so-called “compelling state interest in diversity”? As these studies reveal, the more we know about the effects of these programs, the more fraudulent they appear, in spite of the recurring theme of the proponents that a “critical mass” of students from certain groups is necessary to reap the educational benefits attributable to this diversity, an empty claim of the type identified by Shelby Steele as “poetic truth”.
In her report, Professor Heriot makes the statement, “But if anything can cause good-faith supporters [of affirmative action] to stop and reconsider, it is the mounting empirical research showing that race-preferential admissions policies are doing more harm than good even for their intended beneficiaries”. The critical condition here is good-faith, and I don’t want to accuse her of naiveté, but I wish it was this simple.