Like Harvard, the school has trouble defending an admissions policy that ill-serves minority students.
Harvard isn’t the only university defending its discriminatory admissions policies in court. Its nonprofit adversary, Students for Fair Admissions, filed a similar complaint against the University of North Carolina in 2014. UNC’s initial defense, submitted last month, is a case study in the willful ignorance underlying the racial-preference regime in higher education. Above all, schools like Harvard and UNC have deliberately ignored the negative effects of preferences on their supposed beneficiaries.
UNC told the court it needs to employ racial double standards in admissions because “certain classes, fields, or areas of campus” lack black and Hispanic students. Though UNC didn’t elaborate, the subjects deficient in underrepresented minorities undoubtedly include science, technology, engineering and math—the so-called STEM fields.
UNC has it backward: Racial preferences aren’t the solution to black and Hispanic underrepresentation in STEM, they are a cause of it. Admitting students with academic qualifications significantly below those of their peers puts them at a disadvantage, whatever their race. Students who are catapulted by preferences into schools for which they are academically mismatched struggle to keep up in classrooms where the teaching is pitched above their level of preparation. Studies have shown that African-American and Hispanic freshmen in preference-practicing schools who intend to major in STEM switch into softer majors at a high rate once they realize their fellow students are much better prepared to do the work. Had those students enrolled in schools that matched their level of preparation, they would be more likely to graduate with a STEM degree.
Heather Mac Donald is the Thomas W. Smith fellow at the Manhattan Institute, contributing editor at City Journal, and the author of the bestselling War on Cops and The Diversity Delusion (available now). Follow her on Twitter here.
Photo by Mathieu Plourde via Flickr