Thursday, December 14, 2006

"One man's diversity..." - Today's NYT puts a spotlight on the unintended consequences of gaming the college admissions process in the name of "diversity." In response to a federal appeals court decision banning the explicit use of race for college admissions in Texas, the state legislature implemented a program that would allow the top 10 percent of students at any high school to be automatically qualified for admission to any college within the University of Texas system.

Here in Texas, the 10 percent solution has worked reasonably well in achieving diversity without running into Supreme Court restrictions on affirmative action. Of the freshmen at the flagship campus here, 18.7 percent are Hispanic and 5.2 percent are black, roughly the same proportions as before the 1996 court ruling in Hopwood v. Texas.

But the formula has also had unintended consequences that the Texas Legislature is now wrestling with; it has become the tail that wagged the dog, university officials suggest. Seventy-one percent of the 6,864 Texans in the freshman class are top 10 percenters, compared with 41 percent in the first year the formula was used. That steady growth has frustrated college officials who have seen their flexibility to admit high school class presidents, high SAT scorers, science fair winners, immigrant strivers, artists and the like narrow.

"At some point you have to ask yourself, do you really want to admit your whole class on a single criteria," said Bruce Walker, the admissions director at [The University of Texas, Austin.] "It doesn’t give you the opportunity to recognize other kinds of merit."
Indeed, Mr. Walker makes his best point by missing it. He and his cohorts at selective schools across the country have long ago substituted "merit" with "diversity," and are now frustrated that they cannot further distort the system by redefining diversity to include "poets who fell short." Left unanswered is why should diversity be the "single criteria" considered for admission as opposed to class rank.

This situation highlights two indelible truths about liberalism. First, liberalism is an elitist belief system. In as much as Mr. Walker and his ilk see themselves as uniquely entitled to create admissions criteria out of thin air, they betray a sense that their judgement - irrespective of test scores, grades or other traditional measures of merit - should carry the day when deciding on how to get "as strong or as interesting a student body" as they might like.

Secondly, liberalism is inherently racist, in that the implicit message that this type of admissions gamesmanship sends is that the only way "diversity" can be achieved on college campuses is through rigging the system such that the appropriately race-sensitive outcome can be achieved. (And even if that was the case in Texas or elsewhere, wouldn't the better solution be to improve educational outcomes for minority students as opposed to enforcing a false diversity?)

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