Is “Diversity” Mandatory?

Everyone agrees that nothing in the Supremes’ recent Grutter decision allowing racial preferences makes those practices mandatory. I wonder if everyone is right.

One of the strongest legs on which that decision stood is the principle of academic freedom, that educational institutions deserved wide latitude and great deference in determining and designing their academic missions and the means to achieve it. Michigan, as we all know, defined “diversity” as a core value, determined that a “critical mass” of minorities was essential, and further concluded that racial preferences were necessary to produce the required mass.

But what if another public university — let’s call it the University of Red America — exercising its academic freedom, not only disagreed but came to something of an opposite conclusion? What if it were persuaded by the widely discussed report (I discussed it here) by Stanley Rothman, director of the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change and a professor of government at Smith College; Seymour Martin Lipset, a professor of public policy at George Mason University; and Neil Nevitte, a political-science professor at the University of Toronto? That report surveyed students, faculty, and administrators at 140 colleges and found:

As the number of black students increased, student satisfaction with their educational experience dropped, as did their opinion on the quality of education and the work ethic of their peers. In addition, the more diverse the institution, the more likely students were to respond that they experienced discrimination….

What if, in short, URA concluded that the presence of a “critical mass” of minorities was detrimental and “took race into account” — as only one of many factors, of course — to ensure that it did not become so diverse as to undermine its academic mission?

URA, like Michigan, would not have a “rigid quota.” Race would be only one of various factors it considered in admissions. And its policy, based on a clearly articulated sense of its academic mission and supported by research findings from highly regarded social scientists, was not intended to, and did not, stigmatize or exclude anyone.

Given the wide acceptance (at least in elite circles) of the notions that there is no individual right to be treated “without regard” to race and that colleges have a presumptive right to define and implement their academic missions without court intervention, what would a principled objection to URA’s un-diversity policy look like?

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  1. Cobb October 2, 2003 at 6:24 pm | | Reply

    URA, by my standards would have to be classified into one of two categories. The first category would be that of ‘primary university’ and the second would be that of ‘public university’. A primary, by my definition would be classified as a university that is distinguished by a history of contributions by several of its colleges to world knowledge and of necessity be one of the consistently top ranked universities in the country and in the world. In the US, I would not expect there to be more than 30 such universities. All others would be considered, for the purposes of diversity, ‘public’.

    All ‘public’ universities regardless of their funding status would be subject to an integration program which awarded racial preferences according to a self-adjusting algorithm based upon some proportionality to community represenation. All undergraduate admissions would be subject to such a program. At the graduate level, the matter would be entirely voluntary. In the matter of community representation, preferences would not be allowed for out of state applicants.

    Assuming URA was a ‘public’ undergraduate program, the algorithm would show whether or not its concentration of blacks was or was not proportional to the number of blacks in its area. If it were, then the University would have no grounds to restrict admissions on the basis of on-campus tension because the racial conflict, by definition of community representation, would be an artifact of racial conflict in its community which as a public instituion, it had no right nor merit to evade.

    Only institutions which merit ‘primary’ have demonstrated any privilege which would exempt them from performing the public service of integration.

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