GOULD: Mainstream media is wrong about affirmative action
The 'life support' narrative is intended to throw people into a crazy whirlpool of believing that Black Americans are not going to get into college because conservative justices sit on the Supreme Court.
After the Supreme Court heard oral arguments that questioned the use of race in admissions at the University of North Carolina and Harvard University in October, NPR reported that affirmative action was on “life support.”
“If the court’s supermajority does what it sounded like it will do, it will end the ability of colleges and universities, public and private, to do what most say they still need to do — consider race as one of many factors in deciding which of the qualified applicants is to be admitted,” read the report.
Higher education magazines are also advancing that narrative.
In September 2022, for instance, Jacquelyn Elias and Nick Perez, authors for The Chronicle of Higher Education, cautioned that banning affirmative action would likely widen gaps in college admissions, particularly impacting Black enrollment.
The authors drew upon enrollment data collected from states that enacted affirmative action bans, urging readers to accept the premise that a ban of the policy would be catastrophic for minority students.
Here is an image of the data the authors showcased:
Under the parameters “Underrepresented minorities” and “All students,” multiple graphs such as Arizona, California, Florida, and Washington all appear to show a near-parallel trajectory between the college-aged population and enrollment of minority students even after affirmative action was banned.
In Arizona, the gap between the two grew narrower starting in 2010, when affirmative action was banned in the state. In Michigan, there is a slight dip in minority enrollment, which would have proved the authors’ case if the trend continued downward, but it didn’t. In fact, the gap in Michigan appears to be narrowing.
When using the parameters “Black” and “All students,” most charts appear to be parallel with the exceptions of New Hampshire and Idaho.
However, the effectiveness of affirmative action is not proven by the examples of New Hampshire and Idaho. These states are outliers because of their small Black population, which constitutes only 1% in each state.
The same theme appears to also be the case for Hispanic enrollment. In six out of 10 states listed, Hispanic enrollment grew or matched previous years before affirmative action was banned. And in all cases, except Idaho, the enrollment numbers of Hispanics grew and the gap between the overall college-aged population and the Hispanic college-aged population eventually shrunk.
Removing affirmative action did not negatively impact the enrollment figures of minority groups, in any significant way, but it instead actually benefited those groups in some instances.
But there is more.
The “life support” narrative is intended to throw people into a crazy whirlpool of believing that Black Americans are not going to get into college because conservative justices sit on the Court.
Regardless of how one ‘feels’ about overturning affirmative action, college and university administrators are actively seeking alternative approaches to achieve diversity, regardless of the court’s decision. They have even publicly affirmed that they will do so.
In her May 22 Boston Globe article, reporter Laura Krantz wrote that administrators were strategizing to “continue diversifying elite college campuses” and “have reaffirmed their commitment to diversity.”
Anthony Monaco, president of Tufts University, told the paper that “[r]egardless of the court’s decision, we will continue to advance our diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.”
“Diversity is vital to creating a climate that encourages learning both in and outside of the classroom, fosters respectful conversations across differences, and provides all our students with transformational experiences,” he claimed.
Former Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz also wrote about this in a recent column for The Hill. Universities are planning to skirt the court’s expected ruling by setting what they call “targets” — another word for “quotas,” he said.
“Although all universities deny having quotas, many have numerical ‘targets’ or ‘goals’ that in practice amount to quotas. These quotas are both floors and ceilings: They are floors for applicants of color and ceilings for Asian-Americans.”
Will conservatives likely get their way in overturning affirmative action? Yes. But the Left is going to get its way. And the Left will do so by not just ignoring the data, but by also deliberately circumventing the law and making race a factor in admissions.
Yes, affirmative action is on “life support,” but the monitor will keep beeping when the plug is pulled.
Follow Jared Gould on Twitter.