• Academic Racism By a Different Name

    June 9, 2023

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    Posted in: Democracy

    A decision by the Supreme Court in the case of Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina/Harvard College is due very soon. It is widely held the decision will do away with or greatly weaken affirmative action in college admissions, removing or dramatically limiting race as a criterion. But far from helping solve the festering problem of race in America, the Supreme Court decision will simply shift the battle from affirmative action to so-called “race-neutral criteria.” This is an already-in-place end run around any end to affirmative action, designed to pretend criteria such as class rank or home zip code are not racial. The theory of racial neutrality in academic decision making holds the use of such “neutral” criteria to create racially balanced classrooms is proper where affirmative action was once called into play to do the same.

    At present schools may use race as an admissions criterion as long as it is not the only basis for a decision, with the implied so long as the goal is diversity (good) and not whitewashing (bad). This allowed a nation pretending to strive toward equality to instead enact the opposite, by upholding separate standards based on skin color.

    The hypocrisy began with Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, a 1978 Supreme Court case which held a university violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 if it made admissions decisions on the “definite and exclusive basis” of race. That bit about “definite and exclusive basis” was crucial—race could be a criteria, but just not the only one.

    The Court ruled that a university’s use of racial “quotas” in its admissions process was unconstitutional, but a school’s use of affirmative action to accept more minority applicants was constitutional. In this case, the university’s offense was being too clear; the University of California explicitly held 16 out of 100 admission spots exclusively for black students instead of just putting its thumb on the scale elsewhere in the process and—presto!—filling those slots with black students.

    In Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) the Supreme Court upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s admissions policy, which used racial preference (bad) to promote diversity (good.) Black applicants were admitted under different standards than members of every other group. The fudge was again to say that affirmative action is constitutional so long as it treats race as one factor among many, and does not substitute for individualized review of the applicants. But Grutter in 2003 came with an interesting addendum: affirmative action was supposed to be a temporary policy, an imperfect expedient, while society worked out the larger issues. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest in student body diversity.” Some two decades later with that imperfect expedient likely to be declared unconstitutional, what comes next?

    Though the expected Supreme Court decision will focus on university admission, the next battleground will likely be a high school in Northern Virginia. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, known to everyone as “T.J.” is considered one of the best STEM high schools in the country. Until about a year ago, the only way to get in was to pass a very competitive entrance exam. Entry into T.J. meant you were a smart kid with the discipline to put in hard hours with no guarantee of success, a perfect definition of those who would also go on to succeed at MIT, CalTech, or an Ivy. However, in the aftermath of George Floyd, this was somehow not enough. As many as 73 percent of students admitted to Thomas Jefferson High School were Asian. Only about two percent of T.J. students were black. T.J.’s school’s principal said “Our 32 Black students and 47 Hispanic students fill three classrooms. If our demographics actually represented those of the county’s public schools, we would enroll 180 Black and 460 Hispanic students, filling nearly 22 classrooms.”

    The answer was T.J.’s entrance exam was replaced with “a holistic review” that included “experience factors, including students who are economically disadvantaged, English language learners, special education students, or students who are currently attending underrepresented middle schools.”

    In addition, spots for the top students from every public middle school in the area (several of which are predominantly black or Hispanic) were set aside, pushing more black and other non-white and non-Asian students into T.J. Ignored of course is that the term “Asian” itself is yet another racial fudge, that somehow Chinese, Thais, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Laotians, Indians, Bangladeshis, et al., are part of one omnibus racial rejection pile.

    It worked, for T.J.: the percentage of Asian American students dropped from 73 percent to 54 percent. The percentage of black students grew from two to seven percent while the percentage of Hispanic students grew to 11 percent from three.

    Despite the obvious racially-divided results, and perhaps cleverly anticipating the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision doing away with affirmative action, T.J. is drawing the next line in the sand, claiming its criteria are racially neutral, and emphasizing the fact that admissions officers at the school are not told the race, sex or name of any applicant. Harvard is also toying with the idea of such racially neutral criteria, judging applicants in part now based on likability, courage, and kindness.

    So who is kidding who here? In the face of the end of affirmative action, is racially neutral criteria just another workaround to allow schools to patch together a student body racially diverse enough to satisfy 2023’s woke standards?

    Though it is uncertain the coming affirmative action decision will address racial neutrality, the courts are indeed aware of the issue. After the Supreme Court passed on the T.J. case last year (in the context of an application for emergency relief) and remanded it to a lower court, a divided three-judge panel at the Fourth Circuit federal appeals court in May allowed T.J. to continue with its revised admissions policy. But in a dissent that seemed to be addressed to a Supreme Court of some future date, Trump-appointee Judge Allison J. Rushing wrote the majority had refused “to look past [T.J.’s] policy’s neutral varnish” and consider instead “an undisputed racial motivation and an undeniable racial result,” and that the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection “would be hollow if governments could intentionally achieve discriminatory ends under cover of neutral means.”

    Just as the Supreme Court allowed discriminatory decisions by race as constitutional (“affirmative action”), the courts will soon face the question of whether so-called racially neutral criteria are constitutional. The issue is likely to come before the Supreme Court as early as this autumn, on the heels of the downfall of affirmative action.


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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      If there are too few positions for students at these “great” institutions, instead of using testing to deny them entrance why not increase the number of teachers. This AMA-like cartel approach is designed to limit the number of favored few so god-forbid these Harvards can maintain their reputation as the best of the best.

      Meanwhile, Close the underperforming colleges that are ripping off their students by offering substandard education courses and saddling them with crushing student debt.

      06/9/23 9:42 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer: “higher” education has been a racket going back to the 60s. How will the dozen or so private colleges just within my area alone be repurposed if such a thing is possible or practical? Most likely they’ll be just abandoned ruins in a few decades- a place for wealthy dog owners to explore at dusk. Villanova, Swarthmore, Haverford and Bryn Mawr will most likely survive but Cabrini, Rosemont, Eastern, to name three of ten close by can’t possibly survive. Villanova could scoop up a few for “adjunct” campuses I guess. Maintenance will be the problem. Most have huge acreages with elaborate grounds and buildings- all needing constant attention.Small churches are being repurposed for condos in this Main Line area but college campuses offer perhaps too big a challenge for developers. think Mayan ruins in a few hundred years.

      06/10/23 10:45 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      What Peter doesn’t mention is the majority of the scum who went to Wall Street and created the derivative scandal that almost destroyed the world’s economy were graduates of these “great” schools.

      06/10/23 6:16 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...



      It’s not a sure thing you will get a great education at these “great” institutions like Harvard, Yale etc. DeathSantis and George Bush must make Yale so proud. You can get a really great education at Haverford and Swarthmore and many other schools if you work hard. Just getting into top high schools or colleges don’t guarantee you a successful career.

      06/10/23 6:57 PM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Affirmative action is so……moot. Small closed and abandoned campuses might become compounds for the queer identifying community. So history does repeat! – from 12th century sexuality denying monasteries and convents -confidently and stoically rejecting the replication practices of regular folk (to serve some baffling higher purpose) becoming eventually coed universities and now back to non binary compounds.

      06/10/23 7:35 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      While Peter panics over racism he cites as the reason some overachieving Asians are not getting admitted into their preferred “great” schools, he overlooks the racism that 75 million brainwashed fellow citizens are admitting quite openly. They have no concern for Demented’s many crimes as long as he is the voice of their racism. God forbid another black person is allowed in their White House. In their racist eyes Trump is their General Custer standing up to the dangerous minorities circling around them. They really believe the 2024 election is their Last Stand.

      Just as the American Indians were eventually outnumbered by the White invaders. the FoX Populiars fear a similar end. But think of all the great casinos they can manage on their white reservations. Trump is an idiot but he does know a lot about casinos.

      06/11/23 10:05 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...


      Bauer: Your Trump and casinos tie-in is super insightful. The USA might be in for a multi century brutish “adjustment” before a new non-dystopian society evolves. That’s an ideal speculation.

      06/12/23 6:07 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The brouhaha over discrimination in college admissions has already been settled by the Supreme Court. Colleges are businesses. The Court has determined businesses cannot be restricted in their Free Speech rights to serve their customers. The court ruled 6-3 for designer Lorie Smith, saying she can refuse to design websites for same-sex weddings despite a Colorado law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender and other characteristics. The court said forcing her to create the websites would violate her free speech rights under the Constitution’s First Amendment.

      07/2/23 9:48 AM | Comment Link

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