Recently I discussed (here) a provocative new study that suggests affirmative action reduces the number of black lawyers. That study, yet to be actually published, continues to generate a storm of controversy, some of it quite revealing.
The critics all agree that affirmative action, i.e., racial preference in admissions, is a Good Thing, but they don’t agree on what it is or why it is necessary. A publication at Indiana University, for example, criticizes the study by confidently asserting that
Affirmative action is designed to ensure that institutions are not intentionally discriminating against minority groups. If the program was reduced, we would be taking a step backward.
Let me get this straight. Universities have voluntarily implemented preference programs in order to prevent themselves from intentionally discriminating? If they stopped giving preferences to minorities, they would suddenly begin discriminating against them? Even aside from the not insignificant consideration that intentional discrimination is illegal, this argument is, to put it charitably, nonsense.
Meanwhile, Megan Barnett, the dean of admissions at proudly elitist Yale Law School, is sure the Sander study has nothing to say to Yale.
The Law School admits only students it believes are capable of handling the workload, Yale Law School Dean of Admissions Megan Barnett said.
“All of our students are really exceptional,” said Barnett. “We get the most talented students in the country so they all end up very successful after they graduate — so I am not sure [the study] is applicable to Yale.”
Does Dean Barnett imply that other, lesser law schools admit students who are not capable of doing the work? I’m sure she would be too diplomatic so say so, but other defenders of racial preference are not so reticent. In a critique of the Sander study that they have submitted to the Stanford Law Review, Professors David Chambers and Richard Lempert of the Univ. of Michigan law school, Timothy Clydesdale of the College of New Jersey, and William Kidder of the Equal Justice Society refer without batting an eye to “the 24 percent of African American candidates who could no longer secure admission anywhere” if racial preferences were abandoned (p. 4 of the pdf).
So, “everyone is qualified”? Well, three out of four isn’t bad.
UPDATE [14 Nov.]
Linda Seebach, who I’m happy to say is a Discriminations reader, has an excellent column on the Sander study in the Rocky Mountain News.
She does a good job summarizing Sander’s argument, but to her
it’s the critique that is particularly interesting, because the authors’ arguments could be taken wholesale from the anti-preference side. It’s almost as if they were so desperate to discredit Sander’s results that they forgot these are exactly the arguments they’ve been trying so long and so hard to deny.
Without preferences, they say, “many of the black students who today get into the 14th-ranked schools would be admitted only to the 60th- or 70th-ranked school.”
Top schools would have only 1 percent to 2 percent of African-Americans, they say, instead of the 7 percent to 12 percent they have now in states where racial preferences are permitted.
I have to remind you that these are people who are defending the current system, conceding the huge role racial preferences play in admissions while the official spin is that race is only one of many “plus factors,” that all affirmative action students are qualified, and that they are just as likely to succeed.