Monday, May 26, 2014

A Response to Racial Claims About Admissions

This article was originally posted on the InGenius Prep Brain Blog in response to Professor Tim Groseclose's claims about California public universities knowingly violating state laws prohibiting affirmative action:
While Professor Tim Groseclose is probably onto something by stating that public universities in California and elsewhere are violating a state law that prohibits affirmative action on the basis of racial difference, what he is articulating is more obvious and much less invidious than his data and inside experience reveals. The basic idea behind the most recent and most prominent constitutional challenges to affirmative action policies (challenges to schools like the University of Michigan and University of Michigan Law School’s holistic and “plus factor” admissions processes) is that race can be considered as part of a holistic review of a potential candidate because it serves a compelling governmental interest. While the Supreme Courts’ advocates of affirmative action policies are split on what exactly that compelling interest is (diversity? cross-racial understanding? access to paths of leadership?), it’s pretty clear that holistic review that includes race is at least constitutionally acceptable.
The state law in question here, like the Michigan amendment that was recently challenged, is the opposite situation. In these cases, the Supreme Court has held that it is constitutional for a state to express the policy prerogative that affirmative action should be prohibited in its public universities. I’m not familiar with Groseclose’s political preference on affirmative action and I’m not taking a stance on the issue myself in this article, but the data that Groseclose posts on his website and that is available elsewhere is pretty compelling that there is an empirically proven trend in these “holistic reviews” that tend to discriminate against or in favor of particular groups. For instance, Asian-Americans seem to be capped at a certain level at many schools at a certain “quota.” And, as Groseclose claims, black students are “illegally” (to use his words) given a boost in the admissions process. Several of former admissions officers at InGenius Prep have denied that this sort of “lying” (as Groseclose calls it) goes on, but acknowledge that the data reveals a discernible, yet not so surprising trend. Moreover, although I don’t have personal experience in an admissions office, in any kind of holistic review I’ve ever engaged in, there have been certain factors that I have privileged to the prejudice of others, so this isn’t necessarily “lying” in my mind.
Of course, this type of quota has been ruled unconstitutional since the Supreme Court’s decision in Bakke, but it seems to still happen in practice. This is the kind of tongue-in-cheek “not affirmative action,” but really affirmative action that Groseclose is trying to reveal. For most people familiar with the law on this issue, the fact that holistic review can often skew heavily in the direction of certain factors like race is a foregone conclusion; it’s like saying politics is heavily influenced by campaign funds and political contributions. Then again, some of the world’s most prominent scholars–such as Harvard Law School’s Larry Lessigtackle this seemingly obvious subject, so maybe it’s not quite as obvious as I’m assuming.
The moral of the story for applicants here is to understand that holistic review is generally the norm, at least on a de facto basis, regardless of what state you are in or what state the school you are applying to is in. The admissions experts at InGenius Prep know how to make you stand out in such a holistic review, no matter your creed, color, interests, preferences, or background.