Sunday, July 13, 2008

Universities and Diversity

"Thirty years ago this past week, Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr. condemned our nation's selective colleges and universities to live a lie. Writing the deciding opinion in the case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, he prompted these institutions to justify their use of racial preferences in admissions with a rationale most had never considered and still do not believe--a desire to offer a better education to all students. ... The research is so fuzzy and methodologically weak, that some strident proponents of affirmative action admit that social science is not on their side. ... They know that if the truth ever came out, courts could find [colleges] guilty of illegal discrimination against white and Asian Americans ... And tellingly, the Unversity of California said said nothing about the educational benefits of diversity in defending the UC-Davis medical school's strict racial quotas against the lawsuit brought by Allan P. Bakke, a rejected white applicant. ... Powell would come to rely on one of those briefs, in which Columbia, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania joined in arguing, without any empirical evidence, that diversity 'makes the university a better learning environment.' ... But affirmative-action preferences are not just any education policy; they require some students to suffer racial discrimination for the sake of a perceived common good. In grounding his definition of that good in the shifting sands of social science, Justice Powell may have left colleges legally vulnerable for decades to come. The courts, after all, are known for diverse opinions", my emphasis. Peter Schmidt at the WSJ, 28 June 2008.

Let's not kid ourselves, the Supremes decide anything they want on any basis they want. Even Brown (1954) relied heavily on "sociological evidence" whatever that is. The public may yet realize the Supremes are another political branch of government, not nine solons. A constitutional amendment is in order: Supremes should have to run for election: 12-year terms with 1/3 elected every four years. Having to explain disasters like Kelo and the recent Exxon decision to the "sans coulottes" may make the Supremes more sensitive to Finley Peter Dunne's 1896 comment, writing as Mr. Dooley, "even the Supreme Court follows the election returns".

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