Recently, voters in Michigan amended their Constitution to ban consideration of race by public universities in admissions decisions. By ending affirmative action, Michigan decided to restore sanity to government.
Colorado should do likewise.
Interestingly, Michigan’s ballot initiative comes three years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the issue of affirmative action relating to the admissions policies of the University of Michigan’s Law and Undergraduate programs.
In both cases, the Court endorsed the view held by Justice Powell in the 1978 landmark case, University of California Regents v. Bakke, that student body diversity is a compelling state interest that can justify the use of race in university admissions.
To clarify, the Court also held Powell’s view that while race or ethnicity may be a “plus” in the admissions process, “[p]referring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake.” To keep from violating the Fourteenth Amendment, the whole individual must be assessed in determining their contribution to a diverse campus.
Why is diversity such a compelling interest for a university? Justice Powell reasoned that an essential freedom of a university is the “right to select those students who will contribute the most to the ‘robust exchange of ideas. .’ ”
Apart from the fact that this supposed freedom is based on an interpretation of the First Amendment that conflicts with the federalist principle of the 10th (education being the province of the states or people), the more important objection to this argument is that a robust exchange of ideas is not desirable.
Do Americans really believe that advocates of Sharia (Islamic holy law) should be preferentially admitted to U.S. law schools, where Americans would then have to argue that stoning a man or woman to death for adultery is wrong, and from where such advocates might go on to become judges, Justices on the Supreme Court, even?
Are Americans ready for spirited, robust debates on the merits of pedophilia, lynching, gassing of Jews, badger baiting, or other barbaric practices? I hope not.
We are also told of the economic benefits that flow from exposure to diverse views. Deferring to a brief by General Motors, the Court stated in the Michigan law school case that “the skills needed in today’s increasingly global marketplace can only be developed through exposure to widely diverse people, cultures, ideas, and viewpoints.”
Well, first, as Thomas Sowell writes, “If diversity is so essential, how does a nation like Japan, with a homogeneous population, manage to get its students educated (better than ours), its work done, and its people living in more harmony than we have?”
Also, why do schools limit consideration of ethnicity to the standard check boxes for African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans? Why not go global, and include Burmese, Somali, Kazakh, Han, or the myriad of other ethnic groups?
Or, since the proper purpose of a state university is to educate the people of the state, why not base admissions decisions upon merit and aptitude instead. I’m quite sure that practice would be economically beneficial.
Some argue that government and the public are unqualified to make decisions about higher education. Well, what qualifies an admissions committee to assess diversity, which is highly subjective? Better these subjective judgments are replaced by objective criteria.
In practice the Court’s definition of diversity is not used, but instead it is abused to disguise the operational definition of diversity as solely diversity of race or color. It is code.
“Our Constitution is color-blind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens” Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).
How far we’ve come.