Furthest Right

Affirmative Action Begins Its Descent

Apparently the changes wrought over the past four years are finally filtering down the ground level because the Justice Department made a first strike against affirmative action in college admissions:

The Department of Justice found Yale discriminates based on race and national origin in its undergraduate admissions process, and that race is the determinative factor in hundreds of admissions decisions each year. For the great majority of applicants, Asian Americans and whites have only one-tenth to one-fourth of the likelihood of admission as African American applicants with comparable academic credentials. Yale rejects scores of Asian American and white applicants each year based on their race, whom it otherwise would admit.

Although the Supreme Court has held that colleges receiving federal funds may consider applicants’ race in certain limited circumstances as one of a number of factors, the Department of Justice found Yale’s use of race is anything but limited. Yale uses race at multiple steps of its admissions process resulting in a multiplied effect of race on an applicant’s likelihood of admission, and Yale racially balances its classes.

This lays out a legal principle: using race to discriminate against applicants, even when in service to trying to bring in more from an underrepresented group, is as much taboo as excluding or minimizing applicants from a particular race. It equates the two, in fact, which sets a new precedent.

Previously, under affirmative action and disparate impact, it was considered de facto proof of racism if a student body for example did not reflect the racial quotas in the population at large; this new ruling rejects the idea that students will perform identically among different races, and instead suggests that decisions must be at least mostly merit-based.

When the fallout from this comes to ground, universities will find themselves admitting students on the basis of scores and grades more, which can backfire in that it can create a “University of California problem” where suddenly the top scores are filled with Asian study-maniacs and become very boring.

In the long term, this signals that affirmative action may be breaking and with it the massive wealth transfer subsidy that is keeping diversity alive, not just in college admissions but in jobs and housing, dropping much of the high cost that prevents American labor from being competitive.

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