U-WIRE: Wrong to judge on race

(U-WIRE) DURHAM, N.C. – There is a major revolution happening so slowly that hardly anyone has noticed. Affirmative Action is in serious trouble at universities across the country, and it’s about time.

Monday’s federal appeals court ruling against the University of Georgia’s preferential admissions policy was another major defeat for proponents of Affirmative Action. The university made borderline admissions decisions using a numerical scale that included points for many factors, race being a prominent one. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled this completely arbitrary method was unconstitutional.

But what stood out in the decision was the strong language the appeals court judges used to criticize Georgia’s idea of diversity. Simply having different races on campus, they noted, does not constitute valuable diversity.

This important point is overlooked too often in the zeal to improve college guidebook statistics. At many schools, students of different races rarely mix because the university is more interested in admitting minorities than fostering racial harmony. If any good is to come of these unfair policies, schools should at least follow through on their investment with more than superficial statements about how students should broaden their horizons.

But even more importantly, the phony diversity of race overlooks the numerous other types of diversity that are far more valuable in an academic environment than mere skin color. Things like economic, philosophical and even geographical variety are just as valuable. As Judge Stanley Marcus wrote in the court’s ruling, “If the goal in creating a diverse student body is to develop a university community where students are exposed to persons of different cultures, outlooks and experiences, a white applicant in some circumstances may make a greater contribution than a non-white applicant.”

To attain such real multiculturalism, universities need to recruit from a wide pool but take only the most qualified applicants. The Georgia ruling recognizes the seemingly simple fact that unequal treatment is not the way to reach equality. The 14th Amendment holds a universal, timeless truth: Whatever the motivation behind discrimination, be it hate or love, it is never acceptable.

But the movement is also gaining momentum outside the courtroom. The passage of the landmark Proposition 209 in California banned the use of race in state hiring and public university admissions. And just this past year, the state of Washington passed a similar bill in Proposition 200. The success of these recent initiatives proves that meaningful change is possible with regard to racial policy.

Apparently, Americans are finally tiring of the empty promises and hypocritical spin of race-based admissions policy advocates, and the ensuing effect will be powerful. With the Supreme Court set to hear two appeals from Michigan on the subject and more ballot initiatives planned, including another in California, the political and legal battle rages on.

For once, it looks like common sense and fairness may win out.

– John Zimmerman
The Chronicle (Duke U.)

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