Everyone knows that entertainment is perhaps California’s most important export, but most are under the mistaken impression that it comes primarily from Hollywood. It doesn’t. It comes from UCLA, Berkeley, and other precincts where liberals manufacture more and more zany attempts to evade Prop. 209, the amendment to the California constitution that forbids state agencies from distributing benefits and burdens based on race or ethnicity.
The latest howler is the University of California’s move to drop the SAT II and otherwise lower standards so that a larger number of applicants will qualify for “holistic review,” an entirely subjective process (decried in the debates over the 1964 Civil Rights Act as “white male discretion”) that allows admissions officers to reward overcoming hardship more than mastering academic subjects. Never mind that it hasn’t been that long since UC administrators were touting the SAT II test because it allowed for the admission of more Hispanics, who did well on subject test in Spanish.
As reported in Inside Higher Education,
For several years now, the University of California has been debating plans to drop the SAT Subject Tests (formerly called the SAT II or achievement tests) and to find ways to consider more minority applicants. The debate has focused on the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the SAT and how to promote diversity while not violating the state’s ban on affirmative action.
What makes this latest attempt to evade Prop. 209 so entertaining, however, is that even its own adherents admit that their proposal will do little if anything to increase the numbers of blacks and Hispanics, but it will reduce the numbers of Asians and increase the number of whites dramatically.
According to data prepared by the university and just starting to receive attention, 36 percent of those admitted to the university system in 2007-8 were Asian Americans. Applying the new admissions standards, that percentage would drop to 29-32 percent. In contrast, white applicants made up 34 percent of those admitted in 2007-8. Under the proposed reforms, they would have made up 41 to 44 percent of the entering class. The bottom line is that Asian Americans would shift from being the largest group gaining admission to the University of California to the second.
Inside Higher Education’s article ran under the headline, “Unintentional Whitening of U. of California?” But siince the University of California itself predicts that the effect of its new admissions policy will be to reduce the number of Asians and increase the number of whites, in what sense is this “whitening” unintentional?
Jon Reider, director of admissions at San Francisco University High School, an excellent private school,
noted that Asian American leaders have “a history of being suspicious of UC admissions,” because of a sense of many that Asian applicants are held to a higher standard. Reider doesn’t think anti-Asian feeling is at play in these changes. “The intention is to broaden black and Latino eligibility,” he said. As for the white increases and Asian decreases, he added, “that is what in the military they call collateral damage.”
This argument might make more sense if the new policy would significantly increase the numbers of Hispanics and blacks. I am reminded, as I often am, of George Orwell’s famous response to Stalinists who attempted to justify the unjustifiable by asserting that “you can’t make an omlet without breaking eggs.”
“Yes,” he retorted, “but where is the omlet?”
Stephan Thernstrom makes similar points in an excellent piece on NRO this morning (and linked by RealClearPolitics), “Staving Off The Yellow Peril: The University of California regents attempt to curtail Asian admissions”, as did Roger Clegg, here (except they make them better). According to Thernstrom, the University of California’s
move is breathtaking. It will drop the requirement that applicants take two SAT “subject tests”; if the students the school wants tend to do poorly on such tests, then it is best not to know just how poorly. The plan also sharply lowers the academic standards that applicants must meet to be eligible for a “full admissions review.” This review is where their distinctive “personal qualities” can be discerned and made to count for more than the weaknesses in their academic performance.
These changes are manifestly driven by the desire to bring in more black and Hispanic students. Remarkably, though, the university’s own projections indicate that the plan will do almost nothing to expand black enrollment and will be of very modest benefit to Hispanics. Even more remarkably, the prime beneficiaries of the changes will be non-Hispanic whites, whose share of total enrollments is predicted to rise by 20–30 percent. And the big losers will be Asian Americans, whose numbers will be reduced by 10–20 percent. The net effect will thus be to make the University of California substantially “whiter” than it has been.
Thernstrom then notes the irony of this “whitening” of the University of California. It’s ironic, he writes,
because when the battle for race-blind admissions began, opponents worried that Prop 209 would transform UC into a “lily white” institution. This dire prophecy proved ludicrously far from the mark. The big gainers were not white applicants; they were Asian Americans. Although only 12 percent of the state’s population, Asians accounted for 37 percent of UC admissions in 2008.
According to the University of California’s data and projections (quoted in the Inside Higher Education article linked above):
• blacks, currently 4% of admits, are projected to increase to 4-5%;
• Latinos, currently 19% of admits, are projected to increase to 19–22%;
• whites, currently 34% of admits; are projected to increase to 41–44%;
• Asians, currently, 36% of admits, are projected to decrease to 29–32%.
These numbers suggest one more irony: if correct, the new policy will substantially achieve one of the often-stated goals of the diversicrats, increasing the numbers of an “underrepresented minority group.” In 2006, California’s largest minority group, non-Hispanic whites, made up 43.1% of California’s population, making it the most “underrepresented” group of UC students under the old policy. (I say this is an irony because no one, including the diversicrats, really believes the diversicrats mean what they say about “diversity.”)
Whether or not this new policy is just, there is one aspect of it that is at least poetically just: one pro-affirmative action group getting bitten in the behind by its own arguments.
“All of us share the goal of trying to preserve excellence as well as to promote diversity. But the gains for Latinos and African Americans in these projections are very small, while the decreases for Asian Americans and the gains for whites are quite large,” said Vincent Pan, president of Chinese for Affirmative Action, a national group based in California. “There’s almost a swapping out of Asian students for white students. Let’s not rush this thing.”
Almost? Rush? Mr. Pan seems blissfully unaware that affirmative action, almost always and everywhere, eliminates Asians in favor of whites or, occasionally, of blacks and Hispanics? Are Mr. Pan and his group perfectly happy to support this “swapping out” when blacks and Hispanics benefit? Do they oppose it only when whites benefit?
If California and its multicultural antics didn’t exist, perhaps Hollywood could invent it. But then no one would believe it….