- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Today the Center for Equal Opportunity will release a study by Drs. Robert Lerner and Althea Nagai, “Preferences at the University of Virginia.” The report buttresses conclusions drawn in a similar study published earlier this year by CEO, namely that UVa discriminates against whites and Asians and in favor of blacks and Hispanics in its undergraduate admissions.
After the earlier study was released, UVa questioned CEO’s statistics, suggesting that perhaps the disparities we found were better explained by preferences awarded to in-state applicants, rather than by racial or ethnic factors. This suggestion is a principal focus of the new study, and it turns out that the defense won’t wash.
CEO has obtained new, 1999 data that includes each applicant’s race and ethnicity, math and verbal Scholastic Aptitude Test scores, class rank, state of residence, and legacy status (that is, whether one of the student’s parents went to UVa). The study crunches the numbers and comes up with some interesting conclusions.
It is true that in-state and legacy applicants have an advantage in gaining admission. A complete logistic regression analysis shows that an in-state resident in 1999 had 15.8 times the odds of getting in compared to a nonresident with the same qualifications and the same race. A legacy applicant is 4.3 times as likely to gain admission vs. a nonlegacy.
But race is a far more powerful determinant of who gets in. The relative odds of black-to-white applicants controlling for test scores, high-school rank, legacy status, and residency is 111 to 1. In other words, a black applicant has more than a hundred times better chance of admission compared to an equally qualified white candidate.
Indeed, out-of-state African-Americans are admitted with substantially lower test scores and high-school ranks compared to in-state Hispanics, Asians and whites. In 1999 alone, UVa rejected 44 in-state whites, five in-state Asians, and three in-state Hispanics with higher SATs and high-school ranks compared to the median test scores and rank of black out-of-state students who were admitted.
Among all applicants, UVa rejected 1,209 whites, 107 Asians, and 25 Hispanics with higher test scores and ranks than the average black admitted. For all admitted, the composite median SAT scores for whites and Asians in 1999 were 180 points and 190 points higher than those for blacks, and 50 and 60 points higher than those for Hispanics. Blacks and, again to a lesser extent, Hispanics also had lower high-school ranks than whites and Asians who were admitted, though the gap here is smaller.
UVa’s response to our earlier report was schizophrenic. Its board of visitors quickly appointed a special committee to look into the school’s admission policies, and this fall it leaked out that the committee had in fact concluded there were significant problems. Then UVa president John T. Casteen revealed that last winter or early spring he had ended a policy of formally awarding admission points based on race to black applicants. He called his action a routine management matter.
But there was a predictable outcry among pro-preference special interests (notably the National Associaton for the Advancement of Colored People) whenever it looked like UVa was seriously considering a policy of nondiscrimination, and Mr. Casteen himself seems determined to continue a policy of better disguised preferences. He may have convinced the board of visitors to go along, judging from a unanimous resolution it passed on Oct. 16.
That would be too bad. Preferences based on skin color and ethnicity are unfair and illegal, and the arguments being made in their favor are completely unpersuasive.
We are commonly told students cannot be judged on test scores alone, but no one is arguing for that. UVa can use whatever selection criteria it likes tests, grades, recommendations, whatever so long as it applies them equally to all students.
We are told race is only one factor, but our study shows it is an enormous factor. Besides, whenever it tips the scales, discrimination has occurred.
We are reassured all students admitted to UVa are qualified, but that’s not the issue. The question is, are they the most qualified, or did some get in on the basis of melanin content or national origin?
Nor are the wrongs of slavery and the Jim Crow era addressed by granting preferences to 17- and 18-year-olds (born in 1981 or 1982), nor is true diversity of intellect and experience achieved by assuming all blacks and Hispanics think alike or that all whites and Asians are wealthy.
Finally, whatever the dubious benefits of such discrimination, they must be weighed against the costs: the resentment, the stigmatization, the illegality, as well as the hypocrisy, lying and other compromises with the school’s intellectual mission. But the biggest cost is that the principle of racial nondiscrimination has been breached and some students told that they cannot attend UVa because they have the wrong skin color.
In a just a generation, Virginia has made enormous progress in its racial relations. Discrimination still exists, but for progress to continue the single greatest requirement is mutual respect among all her citizens, black and white, Hispanic and Asian. And there can be no mutual respect if everyone knows there is a different, lower standard for some than for others.
UVa’s double standard discriminates against whites and Asians and insults blacks and Hispanics. It postpones the day when the state treats all people equally, without regard to race or ethnicity. The university should stop using racial and ethnic preferences in its admissions.



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