Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2002 / 14 Teves, 5763

Jonathan Turley

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Back to the admissions morass | With the acceptance of two Michigan cases, the U.S. Supreme Court returned to one of its most divisive areas: the use of race in graduate and undergraduate admissions. This comes decades after its controversial decision in University of California Regents vs. Bakke, in which the court struck down racial quotas in admissions but vaguely allowed race as one of the "criteria." In large part, the court is returning to a morass of its own making.

The 1978 Bakke decision was clear as to what is impermissible under the Constitution, but not what is permissible. Clearly, schools cannot adopt the type of race-based quota system that prevented Allan Bakke from being admitted to medical school. However, in suggesting that race could be used as a criterion, the ruling left courts to grapple with the obvious question of how much weight could be given to such a criterion.

The resulting confusion was magnified by the court's later rejection of race-conscious systems in other areas like federal contracts, suggesting that Bakke may no longer hold a majority on the court. In reviewing the Michigan standards, the court may venture into one of the most carefully guarded areas of universities: the specific weight given to race in admissions. School officials often downplay the importance of race in their selection process, insisting that race gives only a slight advantage to otherwise equally qualified students. Yet the same educators insist that if they do not use race as a factor, minority admissions will plummet. The statistics in these cases indicate that race remains a very significant factor.

In the Michigan undergraduate admissions process, 20 points are awarded on the basis of race (for African Americans, Mexican Americans and Native Americans only). This is eight more points than the weight given to the SAT score viewed as the standard, objective ranking for admissions. It is also the difference between a student with an A average and a student with a B average -- a huge difference in a top-ranked school.

In 1991, a Georgetown University law student triggered a controversy when he revealed that the median LSAT score for African American students was 36, seven points lower than for whites. That same year, the average score for nonminority students at Texas Law School was in the 92nd percentile, as opposed to the 55th-percentile average of African Americans.

These are not slight differences and raise significant questions as to whether admissions policies are "narrowly tailored" to achieve a compelling state interest in diversity. Moreover, they belie the notion that race is a relatively minor element in the admissions decision.

For a faculty member to even question the fairness of a race-based criterion is to be seen as the local "Bull" Connor standing in the path of racial harmony. More important, there is a fear that criticism could hurt minority students. However, the weight given to race at Michigan should be cause for concern in a society that strives to be colorblind. Students outside the selected race groups can be denied admission on the basis of a status that they cannot change.

A policy of race-conscious admissions is an easy alternative to the more difficult task of recruiting more minority applicants and spending money on high school programs to improve minority education. Often such programs are adopted only after courts bar the use of race-conscious admissions. Georgia recently implemented such a program after its race-conscious admissions process was struck down. With better recruiting, the state increased the number of minorities in its 2002 class without the use of the old race-conscious process. Seven states, including California, have outlawed race as an admissions factor and are experimenting with programs to increase the number of minority students.

There is no question that diversity is a vital element in education, including diversity in religion, age, gender and economic background. However, when it is artificially engineered, it can undermine the most essential component of the education process: the notion that students will be valued by who they are and not what they represent.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Jonathan Turley teaches constitutional law at George, Washington University. . Comment by clicking here.

12/10/02: Pro-Choice at Expense of Free Speech; NOW case against abortion protester may backfire
12/02/02: A cruel bait and switch for vets
11/15/02: Junk justice
11/07/02: OUR second-class soldiers
10/30/02: 'Quirin' revisited: The dark history of a military tribunal
10/22/02: Un-American Arrests: Mass detainments of the innocent may be the ultimate form of crowd control, but the tactic is unconstitutional
10/16/02: Reverse pawn shops? Broke state officials across the country have been looking for businesses to buy their assets at a fraction of their worth to pay for budget shortfalls
10/08/02: A legal tattoo hullabaloo
10/02/02: Gagged justice sets dangerous precedent
09/25/02: The Great Salmon Rose Caper
09/17/02: Reparations: A Scam Cloaked in Racial Pain
09/12/02: This country's hidden strength
09/04/02: 1st Amendment protects even the ugliest among us
08/28/02: A secret court goes public
08/20/02: I defended Ashcroft during his nomination; he's become a constitutional menace
08/07/02: San Francisco embracing states-rights
07/31/02: Who needs Jenny Craig when you can have Johnnie Cochran?
07/22/02: The meaning of justice and the madness of Zacarias Moussauoi
07/16/02: The President vs. the Presidency
07/08/02: How one woman's whims dictates the rights of millions
07/02/02: Just say 'no' to extracurricular activities
06/24/02: Missing Ted Bundy
06/10/02: A comedy of eros06/14/02: 05/31/02: Beyond the 'reformed FBI' hype
05/23/02: Do we really need a Federal Marriage Amendment?
05/19/02: No "battlefield detainee" should leave home without a U.S. birth certificate
05/10/02: The perfect constitutional storm
04/26/02: 'Slave of Allah' wounds justice
04/12/02: The importance of being nameless
04/05/02: The adjusted value of justice
03/18/02: How Clinton got off: A law professor's take
03/11/02: Profiling and the terrorist lottery
03/05/02: Yes, Sharpton, there was a failure of justice
02/28/02: The Lay of the land
02/14/02: Living in constitutional denial
02/05/02: Legal Lesson for Afghanistan: War's Not a Slip-and-Fall Case
01/25/02: Sever "Jihad Johnny"'s ties to his homeland
01/21/02: "Out of sight, out of mind," but they're still prisoners
01/14/02: Your papers, please!
01/07/02: Prescription for disaster
12/18/01: Madison and the Mujahedeen
12/07/01: In the U.S., espionage crime is easy to understand but difficult to prove
11/19/01: What type of 'creature' would defend bin Laden?
11/19/01: Could bin Laden be acquitted in a trial?
10/28/01: The ultimate sign of the different times in which we are living
10/25/01: Al-Qaida produces killers, not thinkers
09/28/01: The Boxer rebellion and the war against terrorism
08/31/01: Bring back the silent Condit
08/27/01: Working out the body politic

© 2002, Jonathan Turley