Friday, January 26, 2007

 

You From Detroit?


The struggle to maintain campus diversity, i.e. an adequate percentage of minority students, is getting tougher. When the California voters adopted Proposition 209, banning racial preferences for non-whites, the public universities quickly sank into inadequate diversity. Michigan voters have now ignored the California disaster and passed Proposition 2, banning race and gender preferences in public education. Amazingly, the measure passed, 58% to 42%, despite opposition from government, business, labor, education and religious leaders. Go figure.

In 2003 the Supreme Court said it was all right to consider race, if it was just one among many factors, and if you didn’t give points for it (white rules, under which white basketball players get extra points for a basket, are presumably illegal under this ruling). After that colleges adopted “holistic” review, accepting minorities which failed to meet the standards applied to whites, but being careful not to assign extra points. That no longer works in Michigan. “We know from colleagues in Texas and California that if we can’t take race into account, we’re at a competitive disadvantage,” said Julie Peterson, a spokeswoman for the University of Michigan.” Editor's note: the "competition" is not, of course, for below standard students per se, but for "diversity", a crucial academic goal, for which you may need below standard students to reach.

Wayne State University has adopted a new admissions policy which will look to “a set of broader diversity concerns that go to socioeconomic status.” The new factors omit any mention of race, and instead include having overcome substantial obstacles, such as prejudice and discrimination; being multilingual; and residence in Detroit or on an Indian reservation. However, the law school dean, Frank Wu, is concerned that their good faith efforts to comply with Proposition 2 may face a legal challenge: “There’s a new fight building,” Mr. Wu said, “and that’s going to be whether the mere fact that you’re striving for diversity means you’re somehow trying to get around the ban and find proxies, or pretexts, for race, and that that’s impermissible. It’s ironic, but in some quarters our effort to adopt a new policy to comply with Prop 2 has been interpreted as an effort to circumvent it.”

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