We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Data from more than 1,300 four-year colleges and universities in the United States show that the use of race and ethnicity in admissions declined sharply after the mid-1990s, especially at public institutions. The proportion of public four-year colleges considering minority status in admissions has fallen from more than 60 percent to about 35 percent. Among private institutions, the drop during the same years has been notable but less dramatic, from 57 percent to 45 percent. The major decline came after 1995, when the campaign against affirmative action intensified, and schools, particularly public ones, thrown on the defensive, retreated. They were reacting not only to actual litigation but also to its threat. While colleges and universities that are considered elite are more likely to have practiced affirmative action and to have been more protective of it, even they have retreated. Few innovative or vigorous forms of affirmative action are now in play in the face of courts and federal agencies exercising strict scrutiny when examining admissions procedures and in the face of an increasingly suspicious citizenry.
Another reality is redefining, and probably weakening, the meaning of affirmative action. Although few schools publicize the fact, one of the central historic principles giving rise to affirmative action is being undermined. President Johnson’s speech assumed that affirmative action would help the descendants of former slaves (he made no mention of Hispanics). That assumption from yesteryear is out of sync with today’s realities. Affirmative action more and more functions to open the campus not only to the descendants of former slaves but to black students with different cultural and political heritages. Once championed, as in Johnson’s speech, as a means of reparation or restitution, affirmative action now turns out to be helping hundreds and hundreds of young people who have suffered the wounds of old-fashioned American racism little or not at all. More than a quarter of the black students enrolled at selective American colleges and universities are immigrants or the children of immigrants. African-American students born in the United States thus turn out to be more underrepresented (given their presence in the U.S. population) at selective colleges than one might imagine. At some of the most exclusive institutions (Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania), no less than two-fifths of those admitted as “black” are of immigrant origin. Such facts, as they come into view, blunt the force of arguments favoring affirmative action. Diversity and restitution are better reasons than diversity alone, but restitution seems less and less in play.
Diversity itself, moreover, seems weaker and weaker as an argument for affirmative action when many campuses now appear, at least to the public at large, more diverse than ever before. The increasing presence on campus of students from myriad ethnic groups (Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Iranian, and many others) and the consequent reduction of “white” students (witness student populations at the University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, USC, Columbia, and other schools) undercut the notion that American higher education is still unfairly monochromatic.
Prof. Chace favors affirmative action only for blacks with American heritage.
Interesting. I know with my daughter having white parents was something that one Ivy admissions officer's had a hard time grasping - no joke. It was a totally foreign concept to this woman that a white couple could have a black daughter. And the funny thing was that, the officer also being black, held it against us to the point where she actually came out and said during the school visit that white parents adopting a black child was akin to slavery. Fortunately, we found a more rational admissions officer at another private university in Boston and that's where she went.
The point being that some admissions officers have their own agendas and preconceived notions of how their university should look and nothing is going to disturb their concepts.
Affirmative action is alive and well in the SAT tests. Blacks are given an extra 300 point and women an extra 200. I have seen this play out badly when I worked for a college with high entrance standards and a tough curriculum. Many of these minorities will fail in the first semester. If they had not been given the the unearned points on the SAT they would have qualified for a school that better fit their abilities and would have graduated.
Tom: Just goes to show you are damned if you do, you are damned if you don't. Fortunately you and your daughter have the common sense not to drop your hard earned money into the Ivy school with the idiotic and antediluvian admissions officer.
Cilla Mitchell, Galveston Texas
Really, someone had better tell that to our service academies. Or Harvard and Yale as well.
On a personal note, my roommate at a small, private liberal arts college in Maine (2000) was - literally - the daughter of Indian royalty and given a full-ride scholarship to the school. The family obviously had more than enough money to pay for her education in our country and, clearly, she was not a product of any American historical wrongdoing. Now, I don't believe in affirmative action as restitution to begin with, much less to see a school using this premise to build diversity wherever and however it can. There is often no financial need, nor real Johnson-based social need for the admissions decisions being made by schools across our country. And given the cost for white, middle- to upper-class American families to send their own children to college these days, it is a real thorn in the side to see these kind of exceptions being made in the name of rainbow-colored campuses.