SFFA v. Harvard College: Arcidiacono On The Stand II

In my post immediately below I discuss the fundamental disagreement between the two dueling expert witnesses, one of whom, Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono, testified yesterday. The result in this trial is likely to turn on which of those experts is regarded as most persuasive.

One other aspect of Arcidiacono’s testimony, as described in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s report, is worthy of comment — not because it is relevant to the question of whether Harvard discriminates against Asians, but in fact because it is not:

During his cross-examination, William F. Lee, a lawyer for Harvard, drew out more of Arcidiacono’s background, including a controversial paper he wrote about affirmative action. In 2012 he concluded in the paper that African-American students’ grades improve as they progress through college in part because they tend to switch out of tough majors.

If there was any effort to discredit the findings of that paper, the Chronicle does not report it. The only mention of why or how those findings are “controversial” is that Arcidiacono “acknowledged during questioning from [SFFA lawyer J. Scott] McBride that at Duke, ‘African-American students felt singled out’ because of the paper. He said that for him, the experience was ‘frightening.’”

Acknowledged is a curious and loaded verb to use here, implying as it does that the acknowledger would have preferred to keep secret what he reluctantly acknowledged. See the Chronicle’s article on that paper, which also does not contain any  criticism of its findings other than that defenders of racial preferences did not like them.

If Harvard lawyer Lee thought the findings of that article were controversial, he should have explained how and why (and if he did, the Chronicle should have reported it). The fact that he did not have any substantive criticism is suggested by something else he took pains to point out: “Lee noted that Students for Fair Admissions and Arcidiacono himself had received funding from the same source, the Searle Freedom Trust, a libertarian-leaning foundation that supports conservative causes.”

I suppose for some people the fact that a scholar received funding from “a libertarian-leaning foundation” is enough to discredit his conclusions.

Say What?