News - Should colleges be barred from considering race as a factor in admissions?

Yes. How much students learn depends on how hard they work, not on classroom diversity

An Atlanta federal appeals court, in striking down the University of Georgia’s race-based admissions scheme, was actually making a very simple, common sense declaration. Discrimination is wrong. Period. Who is being discriminated against, or the reasons for the discrimination, just don’t matter.Worshipping at the Holy Grail of diversity, UGA’s admissions process used a system for borderline candidates that gave them points just for being a member of a minority group, ostensibly to make up for the university’s segregated past. Curiously, though, when women started becoming an ever-larger majority on the Athens campus, men — heretofore unrecognized by our liberal social engineering friends as a disadvantaged group — also started getting a points boost.

Thus we discover the real agenda behind this policy: not to remedy past discrimination but to create a campus that has demographic characteristics deemed desirable by elites in the educational bureaucracy. In the name of this nirvana, some Dawg wannabes saw their coveted spots go to less-qualified candidates. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals called the process “rigid” and “wholly arbitrary” — not to mention unconstitutional.

In trying to defend a similar racial preferences scheme, the University of Michigan argued that diversity alone provides an educational benefit in that how much students learn is influenced by who is sitting next to them. This is silly. How much students learn depends on how hard they work — unless, of course, they’re copying from each other’s papers.

UGA’s central defense was that it had a compelling state interest in correcting racial imbalances at the university. And I would agree with UGA officials that, when only 6 percent of the state’s flagship university’s student body is black, in contrast to more than a quarter of the state’s population, a problem exists that should prompt some hard questions. Is the percentage of black students low because too many can’t get into UGA? Or are they, for some reason, choosing not to seek admission? If the problem is a lower acceptance rate, then why are state schools failing to adequately prepare black students to compete? If the problem is that blacks don’t want to go to Athens, what can be done to change their minds?

We should seek answers to these questions. But what we should not do — what the federal appeals court said we cannot do — is camouflage these underlying problems with schemes promoting the admission of less-qualified minorities. Not only is that grossly unfair to those being sacrificed on the altar of diversity, it also does nothing to attack the root causes of the disparity.

Racial preference is a shining example of what President Bush aptly calls the soft bigotry of low expectations. College campuses, of all places, ought not to engage in it.

Richard Shumate is a writer and Internet consultant living in Sandy Springs.??

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