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Racist Admissions: A Policy For Failure

On October 21, 1999, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar sanctioned racism in college admissions. Though quotas are illegal, Mr. Salazar said that numerical goals are OK so long as they are just that and not set in concrete.[1] In his view, racial discrimination is just fine as long as colleges do it flexibly.

Despite examples like Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, and Jorge Luis Borges, Mr. Salazar, like many others, apparently subscribes to the imbecilic notion that the timbre of one#39;s mind is determined by the color of the skin surrounding it. This means that he wants skin color to tilt admissions decisions either because he believes that minority individuals lack the intellect to make it on their own merit, or because he believes that a university#39;s merit depends on the hue of its student bodies. How else to interpret his comment that If you want to create a diverse student body, you have to have in mind what that diverse student body looks like

This obsession with skin color does untold harm. When college admissions officers chose students on the basis of their achievement rather than their race, admission indicated that the school thought someone had a reasonable chance of graduating. Under racial preferences, no such guarantee applies. Numerical quotas mean that all groups are not equally well prepared. College administrations that admit academically ill-qualified students from favored groups in order to make their student bodies look right take students qualified to do well at the University of Northern Colorado, admit them to the University of Colorado at Boulder, and set them up to fail.

Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai from the Center for Equal Opportunity examined the effect of racial preferences on admissions and graduation rates in Colorado#39;s 12 public colleges and universities using fall 1995 admissions data from the Colorado Commission on Higher Education.[2] At CU-Boulder, the median combined SAT score for enrolled whites was 205 points higher than that of enrolled blacks. The white 25th percentile was greater than the black median score. There were also substantial differences in high school grade point averages. The black median was 2.9. The white median was 3.3.

Used together, test scores and high school grades are the best predictors of whether a student will earn an undergraduate degree. In general, people with lower scores and grade point averages find college work more difficult, particularly when directly competing against people with much higher abilities.[3]

Liberals consider it fair and compassionate that college administrations greedy for appropriately colored bodies adopt policies ensuring that the average black student will have a tougher time meeting academic requirements than the average white student. If they care that such a handicap causes far higher dropout rates–only 39% of black students in the classes of 1987, 1988, and 1989 graduated in six years at Boulder compared with 72% of better prepared whites–it is only to argue for easing graduation requirements or the creation of academically worthless programs to serve as ghettos for the unqualified. Diluting requirements dovetails nicely with the liberal mania for equality of outcome. It ensures that all graduating students will be equally unprepared to compete in the global labor market.

Such callousness creates poisonous race relations. Lerner and Nagai found that more than half of the whites refused admission to the Boulder campus had higher SAT scores than half of the blacks who were offered it. White students observe that the black students in their classes get special treatment but are often not their academic equals. Such unfair treatment creates widespread resentment. Individual black students, ignorant of the fact that as a group they are below average in academic preparation, know only that they work harder and get lower grades than the whites around them. They conclude that everyone discriminates against them.[4]

With color-blind admissions, many of the black students struggling at CU-Boulder would have instead been admitted to a school like the University of Northern Colorado. At that school, their academic qualifications would have matched those of their white peers. They would not have had to work harder for lower grades. White students would meet black students who were their academic equals, and resentment caused by racist admissions would recede along with the pressure to equalize graduation rates by diluting requirements.

An end to racial preferences in college admissions means that minority students will no longer be stigmatized by poor academic records. Freed from their assigned roles as colors in the outlines of a liberal utopia, they also would also have an equal shot at graduating. No one would dare question whether their degree reflects competence or preferential treatment. Each would have an equal opportunity to acquire the intellectual tools that help so much in forging one#39;s own destiny, and the self-confidence that comes from knowing that they were fairly earned.

[1] Bill Scanlon. 22 October 1999. Race-based college entry touted. Denver Rocky Mountain News, p. 5A
[2] Robert Lerner and Althea K. Nagai. October 28, 1997. Racial Preferences in Colorado Higher Education. Washington, DC: Center for Equal Opportunity. http://www.ceouse.org/colorado.html
[3] Lenore Ostrowsky. Spring 1999. College Dropouts and Standardized Tests. Academic Questions, 12,2. Pp. 74-81.
[4] Dinesh D#39;Sousza describes just how much race relations have deteriorated on college campuses in
Illiberal Education;The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. 1991. Free Press.

Linda Gorman is a Senior Fellow with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden, Colorado, https://i2i.org. This article originally appeared in the Colorado Daily (Boulder), for which Linda Gorman is a regular columnist.

This article, from the Independence Institute staff, fellows and research network, is offered for your use at no charge. Independence Feature Syndicate articles are published for educational purposes only, and the authors speak for themselves. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily representing the views of the Independence Institute or as an attempt to influence any election or legislative action.
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Copyright 1999 Independence Institute