“Diverse” Students Want To Testify For “Diversity”

According to a new report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “A group of Asian-American, African-American, and Latin American students and alumni has asked to be allowed to make opening and closing statements and to cross-examine” expert witnesses in the pending case of Students for Fair Admission v. Harvard, which I discussed here and here.

The Chronicle begins its article by asserting that “students are at the center of a lawsuit accusing Harvard University of bias against Asian and Asian-American applicants in its admissions process,” all but explicitly arguing they should thus be allowed to testify. Although this argument is common, even ubiquitous, it always strikes me as odd, because all the justifications for racial and ethnic preferences stress the necessity of non-“diverse” students being exposed to those who are “different” from themselves. Those “diverse” students who would not have been admitted but for their “diversity,” after all, would have received whatever benefits “diversity” has to offer at less selective institutions where they could have earned admission on their own, individual (as opposed to racial or ethnic) qualifications.

In order to conform to the standard defense of “diversity,” in short, these witness wannabes should be accompanied by non-“diverse” Harvard students who presumably would assert how their education would have been ruined by not being exposed to these worthy witnesses.

The eight students and alums who want to testify argue that Harvard needs more students like, well, themselves. Caroline Zheng, a Chinese-American senior, “said she would like to testify that more racial diversity is needed at Harvard to improve the campus climate for all students of color, including Asian-Americans.” The “diverse” students, that is, need more “diversity” in order to feel included. In another odd argument, Sally Chen, another Chinese-American senior, said she would like to testify about “how ethno-racial diversity on Harvard’s campus has benefited her by providing a foundation for her student activism.” That helped her, she claims, in her “effort to secure an ethnic-studies program that includes Asian-American studies.” Thus, it is claimed, one of the benefits of “diversity” is that it enables “diverse” students to demand departments of “diversity.”

One common argument that “diverse” beneficiaries often put forward as a justification for the preference they received is missing here, or at least not reported in the Chronicle summary. I have described this argument as the C’est Moi! defense, which I summarized here, giving a number of examples:

I never would have been admitted to [insert selective college name here] or [insert law, graduate, or professional school here], but I was given an opportunity because of my race and now look how successful I am. Thus, others should also be given opportunities because of their race.

For example, in Justification For Preferences? C’est Moi! I discussed the typical argument of Theodore Shaw,  formerly Director-Counsel and President) of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, that without racial preferences he would not have been admitted to Wesleyan University or Columbia Law School:

One can readily understand why Mr. Shaw regards his own success as compelling justification for the racial discrimination against someone else required to achieve it, but there may be some benefit in those of us without his interest examining the argument. Let us begin by assuming, with him, that he would not have been accepted at Wesleyan or Columbia without the racial preference he received, although in fact that may not be true. (In the absence of preferences, after all, some minorites are still admitted into even the most selective schools.) Still, there is no reason to assume that it was Wesleyan and Columbia or nowhere. Since Wesleyan found him “qualified,” he presumably would have been accepted elsewhere, and since it sounds as though he was poor he would have qualifed for financial aid. Indeed, he might have wound up exactly where he is, for even the NAACP LDF doesn’t require graduation from elite colleges and Ivy League law schools of its employees. Nor is there any reason to assume that the white’s, Asian’s, or other non-preferred minority’s place Mr.Shaw took would have led a life of sloth and indulgence, contributing nothing comparable to Mr. Shaw’s contribution to the national well-being. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Shaw when I say that, placing his success and contributions on one side of the scale and the principle of non-discrimination on the other, there seems to be no compelling national interest in sacrificing the latter for the former.

Mr. Shaw posted a comment on my post, to which I responded at length here.

Returning now to the current case concerning the complaint that Harvard discriminates against Asian applicants, the most eloquent unheard voices are the students who are in fact at the center of this case: the apparently legion numbers of Asian students who are not at Harvard, who were refused admission but would have been admitted if they were not Asian. That there are many such students is not really in dispute, since even Harvard has admitted that its proportion of Asian students would jump from about 20% now to over 40% if race and ethnicity were not taken into account.

If the court allows the testimony of a few “diverse” students who tout the benefit “diversity,” it should also allow the appearance of a few who could testify eloquently about its cost.

Snowflakes In Charlottesville

I’m so old I can remember when students used to protest when administrators tried to impose rules and dress codes regulating their behavior. Now student snowflakes and their supporters protest when administrators don’t.

My memory of student protest in days gone by has been prompted by the eruption  of yet another controversy in Charlottesville. More on that in a moment, but first, while we’re still in memory mode, readers will recall that perhaps the archetype of students vociferously demanding to be told what they can and cannot wear occurred in New Haven several years ago when angry snowflakes confronted Professors Nicholas and Erika Christakis, masters of one of Yale’s residential colleges, and demanded their resignations. They objected to an email from Erika  suggesting that Yale students ought to be mature enough to pick their own Halloween costumes free of rules from the Yale administration. “We should reflect more transparently, as a community,” she had written, “on the consequences of an institutional (which is to say: bureaucratic and administrative) exercise of implied control over college students.”

Yale students, however, demanded to be told what they could and could not wear. In the end, Nicholas resigned from his position as Master of Silliman College but remained a tenured faculty member. Erika resigned from Yale altogether, citing in a depressing Washington Post OpEd a year later the intimidation and imposed conformity at Yale:

Numerous professors, including those at Yale’s top-rated law school, contacted us personally to say that it was too risky to speak their minds. Others who generously supported us publicly were admonished by colleagues for vouching for our characters. Many students met with us confidentially to describe intimidation and accusations of being a “race traitor” when they deviated from the ascendant campus account that I had grievously injured the community…. One professor I admire claimed my lone email was so threatening that it unraveled decades of her work supporting students of color. One email.

Fast forward to Charlottesville, where activists have been protesting — including several arrests at a recent school board meeting —  about the Albemarle County School Board’s dress code. The complaint? That the Board has not specifically banned any and all Confederate symbols on clothing. Such symbols, say the protesters, “make students of color fear for their safety and do not create an equal learning environment.”

I wonder whose safety would be more at risk these days: a student who saw a Confederate symbol on a tee shirt, or the student wearing the tee shirt.

I also wonder what today’s Charlottesville protesters would make of a Time magazine column Erika Christakis wrote, three years before her troubles at Yale, defending a gay student in Ohio who had been barred from wearing a tee shirt with the slogan “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe.”

Both ganders and geese, in short, should think long and hard before urging administrative bureaucrats to dish out discriminatory sauce to their enemies.

Turns out I’m not the only one with memories provoked by this controversy. The Albemarle County School Board also has a memory. As the Charlottesville Daily Progress reports,

In 2003, the county schools lost a similar dress-code case in which a student arrived to class wearing a National Rifle Association T-shirt. Citing in part the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case of Tinker v. Des Moines, Senior Judge Clyde Hamilton said Jack Jouett Middle School had been unconstitutionally overbroad in banning messages on clothing related to weapons under its dress code.

So what we have here are angry protesters exercising their First Amendment rights to protest a school board, mindful of the First Amendment, that is, at least so far, reluctant to ban controversial symbols.

In Charlottesville, as in so many contemporary college towns, irony is solely lacking.


“Charlottesville” (Continuing … )

Corey Long, from Culpeper, Virginia, was just convicted in Charlottesville General District Court of “misdemeanor disorderly conduct” for using “an impromptu flamethrower” against a Klan protester last August. He was initially charged with misdemeanor assault and battery for another incident that day, but those charges were dropped. After police declared an unlawful assembly on Aug. […]

Charlottesville, Again!

Just when the anniversary lamentations over last August’s alt-right invasion began to die down, you probably thought you didn’t have to read any more about Charlottesville for at least another year. Wrong! You do. Please see my just-published piece at the James G. Martin Center, “The University of Virginia in an Uproar Again—Over a Single […]

More Advice For Joe Biden

In the post immediately below, “Run, Joe, Run! Or: Where Have All The Democrats Gone?,” I offered some highly unsolicited advice to former Vice President Joe Biden, who apparently is considering seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 by running at least slightly to the right of the herd of progressives stumbling over each […]

Run, Joe, Run! Or: Where Have All The Democrats Gone?

[NOTE: I have expanded this discussion in the post immediately above, “More Advice For Joe Biden”] The Wall Street Journal’s Capital Journal Newsletter noted on August 10 that former Vice President Joe Biden is presumably “still mulling whether to run for president” in 2020, “but among the potential 2020 Democratic candidates, he’s already carved out […]

Forced Student Contributions

At the end of June in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees the Supreme Court ruled that “The State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public- sector employees violates the First Amendment…. Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable” is a form of “compelled speech” that the […]

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