As I have previously made pretty clear, Ward Connerly of the American Civil Rights Institute is one of my heroes. His latest victory, in Michigan last November, was the landslide voter approval of the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative ending state-sponsored racial preferences (incidentally, no thanks to the White House, from where Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suppressed efforts to support opposition to the affirmative action policies of the University of Michigan when they were challenged in the Supreme Court). Even opponents of the Michigan referendum have described the result as the beginning of the end of affirmative action, and after similar victories in three states, Connerly and his organization have now set their sights on initiatives in no fewer than five more for the 2008 ballots. I wish him well.
Meanwhile, in Texas, the legislature has again failed to revise the rule guaranteeing admission to any state-supported institution of higher education for all students who graduate in the top 10% of their high school graduating class. This rule was adopted ten years ago as a substitute for racial and ethnic affirmative action preferences in admissions, and is now consuming 71% of the admissions at The University of Texas at Austin, while denying the institution the use of a more holistic approach to criteria for admissions even though there is a wide variation in the qualifications of the students based on the quality of their high school preparation. The point here is that again, we continue to miss the crucial element, which is that every student should have the same opportunity to compete for these admissions, and if minorities are underrepresented at our selective institutions, the solution should be to overhaul their academic preparation through systemic reform of elementary and secondary education, not award special consideration based on race and ethnicity.
Ironically, it is difficult to deny that the supporters of the continuation of the 10% rule are doing so to avoid the difficult task of addressing the real issue of the failure of the K-12 pipeline to qualify more of our minority kids for college readiness, and I would go further—they don’t want to admit that the alternative is a return to some form of race-based preferences, which might bring a Ward Connerly campaign to Texas.