Steven Farron, American Renaissance, November 25, 2022
Photo credit: Clickrbee via Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The United State Supreme Court is now considering two cases that could result in a ruling that it is unconstitutional for universities to consider race or ethnicity in admissions decisions. Such a ruling would be catastrophic.
Every university will react by diminishing or completely abandoning objective academic criteria for university admission.
This process is already far advanced. The College Board has stopped giving SAT Subject Tests — known as Achievement Tests — which were by far the best way to determine understanding of a subject. In 1995, the SAT-Verbal Aptitude test was recentered upwards, so that a raw score (number of questions right and wrong) that previously yielded a reported score of 730 now yields a score of 800, thus destroying its ability to distinguish between bright and brilliant applicants. The grading of the SAT-Math test was warped in a more complex and bizarre manner. The stated purpose of these changes was to decrease racial/ethnic differences.
This mutilation of the SAT occurred at the same time grade inflation made high grades meaningless. In 2020, 47 percent of high school seniors graduated with an “A” average — up from about 39 percent in 1998. At the same time, average SAT scores fell 24 points.
In 1996, the people of California approved in a referendum Proposition 209, which prohibited state institutions from taking race, ethnicity, or sex into consideration. It was then added to the California constitution as Article I, Section 32. Its purpose was to end situations like the one described by the principal of a private high school in California:
“Student A was ranked in the top third of his class, student B in the bottom third.
Student A had College Board [i.e., Verbal+Math SAT] scores totaling 1290; student B’s scores totaled 890.
Student A had a record of good citizenship; student B was expelled last winter for breaking a series of major school rules.
Student A was white; student B was black.
Berkeley refused student A and accepted B.
What message about effort, ethical behavior, and the consequences of one’s actions were conveyed?”
This example is not a perversion of affirmative action. It is the degree of racial discrimination that is necessary for the student bodies of selective colleges to approximate the racial proportions of the American population.
In 1995, Berkeley Law School accepted every black applicant with an undergraduate Grade-Point-Average (GPA) between 3.25 and 3.49 and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores between the 70th and 74.9th percentile. It rejected every White and Asian in the same GPA and LSAT range. Dean Hirma Kay explained that considerations of socioeconomic background would not increase the number of blacks at Berkeley Law School because, “African Americans who apply to our law school are not disadvantaged. Their mothers and fathers are professionals with good family incomes.”
In 1996, the people of California thought they had ended this type of blatant, all-pervasive discrimination in favor of blacks and Hispanics from wealthy backgrounds.
However, in 1995, when the chancellor of Berkeley, Chang-Lin Tien, was asked what Berkeley would do about the impending prohibition of racial discrimination in admissions, he answered, “We can come up with some tricks.” Immediately after Proposition 209 was passed, the president of the University of California system announced that it was adopting “a less quantitative, more holistic set of admissions criteria.” As a result, the proportion of “minority” undergraduate and graduate students at the University of California system did not decline.
In 2003, seven years after the constitution of California categorically prohibited state institutions from taking race and ethnicity into consideration, Berkeley admitted 364 “students of color” with Verbal+Math SAT scores below 1,000 and rejected 3,218 applicants with Verbal+Math SAT scores above 1,400. In 2001, the average combined Verbal+Math SAT score of Hispanics who were admitted to UCLA was 1168; the average of Asians and non-Hispanic Whites who were rejected was 1174 and 1209, respectively. (The average of Asians and non-Hispanic Whites who were accepted was 1344 and 1355.)
What could have been the “holistic” criteria on which Hispanic applicants were so superior to White and Asian applicants that could justify these differences in SAT scores? They certainly were not socio-economic deprivation. The first reaction of UCLA Law School to the ban on racial and ethnic discrimination was “a formula giving preference to students from families and communities with low incomes and limited education . . . [but] the main beneficiaries were working class and lower-middle class white and Asian students . . . . Black enrollment fell to 10 from 19 percent.” (italics added). “Latino legislative leader Marco Antonio Firebaugh, a force behind adoption of the new [holistic] system, [explained] . . . ‘We found that using poverty yields a lot of poor white and poor Asian kids.’” (Most of the poor White and Asian students with high academic achievement were Eastern European and Vietnamese immigrants.)’
In an article in the New York Times of December 24, 1997 (“Where’s the Merit in the S.A.T.?”) one of the most influential opponents of the SAT, Professor Eugene Garcia, the dean of Berkeley’s School of Education, used the following illustration:
Isn’t a migrant worker’s child who has excelled in academics, shown leadership ability and performed community service as meritorious as a prep-school graduate with a similar G.P.A. but no evidence of leadership? Now, what if the migrant student’s S.A.T. is 100 points below that of the prep-school student, whose parents probably sent him to an expensive S.A.T. course?
Professor Garcia must have known that Proposition 209, like every other prohibition of racial discrimination, explicitly allowed for consideration of socio-economic background, and the University of California did not use this option because it would have decreased the number of minority students.
Professor Garcia must also have known that in 1990 his own Berkeley School of Education published a monograph entitled Consequences of Nonlinearity for Validity and Selection, which presented the results of a study of the relative predictive accuracy of the SAT and high school GPA for undergraduates who entered Berkeley in 1983. It found that for both sexes and all races, SAT scores at all levels predict college grades accurately. High school GPAs over 3.0 (on a 1-4 scale) also predict grades accurately, but GPAs below 3.0 have no correlation with college grades at all (pages 15–17). So, the predictive accuracy of GPA is nonlinear, as the title of the monograph indicates. Consequently, the Berkeley School of Education monograph recommended increased emphasis on the SAT.
It is significant that even Professor Garcia did not have the audacity to claim that the difference in social background and schooling between a prep-school graduate and a migrant worker’s child can cause more than a 100-point SAT difference. However, in 2001, the difference between average Math+Verbal SAT scores of Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites who were admitted to UCLA was 187 points; and the difference in average SAT scores between blacks and whites at UCLA was even larger. Yet nearly all these Hispanic and black students were from middle- and upper-class families.
The embarrassing racial discrepancy in the SAT scores has now been eliminated. The University of California system has stopped using SATs. This was the inevitable final result of Proposition 209.
At University of California community colleges, the nursing programs, which supply 70 percent of California’s practical nurses, responded to Proposition 209 by making all students with a high school average of C or above eligible. They then allot places among eligible candidates by lottery or by who applied first. Consequently, many of their students are no longer capable of being taught “the single-variable algebra problem required to calculate medication dosages” (e.g., If X=100 cubic centimeters of a medication, then how many cubic centimeters is 2X?).
Thus, the University of California has succeeded in maintaining ethnic/racial diversity without practicing ethnic/racial discrimination.
Other states have responded to threats to end racial discrimination by adopting a policy of making eligible for their state universities everyone graduating in the top 10 or 20 percent of their graduating class.
The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, whose sole purpose is to promote academic affirmative action, observed, “Let us suppose we are going to give a prize for the worst idea of the past year . . . . The prize might well go to the ‘X Percent’ plans for college admissions,” since it penalizes students for taking difficult courses, and it promotes residential segregation by conferring tremendous benefits on blacks who attend completely or nearly completely black schools.
Let us see how this works in Florida and Texas, the most populous states after California.
Florida adopted the policy of admitting to its state colleges anyone in the top 20 percent of his graduating class when a poll showed that two-thirds of Floridians would vote for a referendum prohibiting racial discrimination. It worked. Non-white enrolments at Florida’s state colleges increased by 12 percent without having to take race into consideration.
But how does it affect individual students? Two black students in Miami offer an illustration. Michael Joseph took courses in subjects such as cooking at Edison Senior High School. His GPA was 4.0, which put him fourth out of 370 students, so he could easily get into any college that admits on the basis of class rank. Mr. Joseph’s Verbal+Math SAT score was 1000; Edison’s valedictorian’s Verbal+Math SAT score was 1080; its salutatorian scored 1010. At Edison, as in 13 percent of Florida’s high schools, a C+ (2.5) GPA is in the upper 20 percent of the class and so qualifies for admission to the University of Florida system. The other black student is Leah Burton. She took five advanced placement tests, the lowest mark in her entire high school career was a B, in an honors calculus course, and her Verbal+Math SAT score was 1150. But she was only 213th in her class of 634 at Palmetto Senior High School. Consequently, she could not get into the University of Florida system, which has the lowest class-rank requirement (upper 20 percent) of any university system that uses this criterion.
The contrast with white students at Palmetto Senior High School is even more striking. For example, Louis Fernandez moved to Miami from Italy in his junior year and had a 1210 Verbal+Math SAT score, but was not in the upper 20 percent of his class.
In Texas, eligibility for the state universities was set at the top 10 percent of graduating classes. As a result, George Mitzner was graduated 67th in a class of 640 from Bellaire High School with a combined Verbal+Math SAT score of 1470 (in the upper 1 percent of test-takers) and a high school GPA of 4.49, which included many advanced placement courses. But he was not in the top 10 percent of his class, so the undergraduate business school of the University of Texas (UT) rejected him. Erica Brown graduated from Worthington High School with a 3.5 GPA, none of her courses was advanced placement, and her combined Verbal+Math SAT score was 830 (in the lowest 18 percent). But she was in the top 10 percent of her class and so was accepted by UT. Most of the students who graduate in the top 10 percent at Worthington High School have SAT scores in the 800s.
(The SAT scores reported here would have been considerably lower before the 1995 recentering,)
The liberal New Republic of December 27, 1999 (“Admitting Error”) pointed out a more serious result:
The ten percent plan Texas adopted has vindicated the professors’ fears. Minority enrollments at the Austin campus, the University of Texas’ flagship, have been restored to something like their pre-affirmative-action level, but at the cost of dramatically lowering the academic qualifications of entering freshmen. To address the gaps in preparation, Austin has scrambled to provide special classes and teachers for pre-med students with SAT scores 200 points below the university average. This is a tragic waste of resources. Like the handful of other great public universities in America — Virginia, Berkeley, UCLA, and Michigan — [The University of Texas at] Austin distinguished itself as a research powerhouse, fueling the development of the largest high-tech corridor outside of Silicon Valley. . . . [It has now been] forced to redirect its resources toward remedial education, which it is ill-equipped to provide.
I will point out that the state governments in Florida and Texas that so savagely mutilated their university systems were both Republican.
Since its publication is 1998, The Shape of the River has been by far the most cited defense of academic racial/ethnic discrimination. Its authors are William Bowen, who was president of Princeton from 1972 to 1988, and Derek Bok, who was president of Harvard from 1971 to 1991. Its 476 pages are packed with charts, graphs, half-truths and blatant lies that extol the benefits achieved by what they call “race-sensitive” admissions.
However, on page 288, the authors quote two defenses of racial/ethnic discrimination that are totally different from the benefits they keep arguing it provides. The first is from a legal brief filed by three professors at the University of Texas Law School, who wrote, “If affirmative action is ended, inevitable political, economic, and forces will pressure the great public universities to lower admissions standards” (italics added).
The second quotation is from a professor at Berkeley Law School who had been a prominent supporter of Proposition 209:
I didn’t realize until Proposition 209 went into effect that affirmative action . . . allowed you to have some racial diversity and at the same time to maintain intellectual standards for the majority of your institution. It was a form of limiting damage. Now that you have to have race-neutral methods, if you want to get African-Americans and Hispanics in, you have to redefine the central mission of the research university and lower standards for everyone (italics added).
There you have it: Amidst all their arguments for the supposed benefits of “race-sensitive” admissions, the ex-presidents of Princeton and Harvard admit that it is really the lesser of two evils, a way of limiting damage.
* * *
 I discuss these changes in SAT grading in The Affirmative Action Hoax, pages 289-91.
 Unless otherwise specified, the information about these examples is drawn from pages 48-56 of my book The Affirmative Action Hoax.
 John Bunzel, 1988: “Affirmative Action Admissions: How it ‘Works’ at Berkeley.” Public Interest (Fall): 11-29.
 Carl Cohen 1996: “page 42 of Race, Lies and ‘Hopewell’.” Commentary (June): 29-45.
 Sarah Lubman, 1995: “Campuses Mull Admissions without Affirmative Action.” Wall Street Journal (May 16):
 Daniel Golden, 2003: “Case Study: Schools Find Ways to Achieve Diversity without Key Tool.” Wall Street Journal (June 20): A1.
 MacDonald, 2007.
 The students in this study attended high school in the early 1980s. The massive grade inflation since then must have raised the minimum level at which high school grades have predictive accuracy to at least 3.5 or obliterated it completely.
 Typically, of the ignorance and/or bias of the press, the New York Times printed Professor Garcia’s attack on the SAT as if it were fact, and added to it the headline: “Scores reflect parents’ wealth, not college success,” a claim that not even Garcia made.
 Jill Leovy, 1999: “Dropout, Failure Rates in Nursing Programs Soar.” Los Angeles Times (November 23): A1.
 “Fixed Percentage College Admissions Plans Are a Fixed Formula for Racial Segregation.” JBHE 18 (Summer 2000): 14-15.
 Fifty-seven percent of American high schools include all high school courses a student takes in his GPA.
 Jeffrey Selingo, 2000: “What States Aren’t Saying about the ‘X-Percent Solution’.” Chronicle of Higher Education (June 2): A31. In 2005, a College Board study found that only half of the Blacks and Hispanics who rank in the top tenth of their class score over 600 on either section of the SAT; all [yes, all] the Whites in the top 10 percent do (MacDonald 2007).
 Ron Nissimov, 2000: “Meet Russell Crake: He Graduated from Bellaire High School with a 3.94 GPA and an SAT Score of 1240. So Why Is He Holding a Rejection Letter from the University of Texas?” Houston Chronicle (June 4): A1.
 On pages 48-56 of my book The Affirmative Action Hoax, I discuss other means used by state universities to respond to actual or threatened bans on racial discrimination. In all cases, they have created student bodies in which all of students _ White, Asian, Black, and Hispanic — are much less qualified academically than the students admitted by an open racial/ethnic quota system.,
 I discuss some of their lies in my The Affirmative Action Hoax, pages 182-206. However, The Shape of the River also contains much useful information, such as (pages 107-8) the extreme accuracy with which SATs predict attainment of graduate and professional degrees for all races, independently of grades, socio-economic background, and college attended.