- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

The touted educational benefits of racial and gender diversity to justify university admissions preferences are a hoax.

To borrow from Gertrude Stein, there is no there there.

That arresting finding is documented in the thoughtful decision of United States District Judge B. Avant Edenfield in Johnson vs. Board of Regents of the University of Georgia (July 24, 2000). The judge thus held unconstitutional the showering of bonus points on non-white and male applicants to the University of Georgia in a quest for student body diversity.

Whether racial or gender diversity, ipso facto, promotes educational objectives has been heatedly debated for decades since the United States Supreme Court's fragmented ruling in Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke (1978). A 5-4 majority there concluded that racial quotas in state colleges or universities violate the equal protection mandate of the 14th Amendment. In other words, government is barred from pursuing racial diversity for the sake of diversity.

In a solo opinion, however, Justice Lewis Powell hinted constitutional approval of race or ethnicity as a "plus" factor in evaluating applicants on the hunch that student diversity is educationally enriching. But since Justice Powell floated that speculation, no empirical evidence has substantiated a nexus between academic goals and a racially diverse campus. The omission is exceptionally telling because of the enormous incentive of affirmative action champions to discover even straws to sustain racial or gender preferences against repeated and successful constitutional assaults.

The University of Georgia summoned former UGA President Charles Knapp to prove the educational benefits of diversity. He opined that after graduation, student cooperation with people from "different ethnic and cultural backgrounds" will be needed, and that this skill in human relations "cannot be fully acquired by students whose life experiences have been racially or culturally homogeneous."

The theory is fetching but far from self-evident. Countless men and women have been raised in segregated settings yet displayed magnificent race relations sympathies, understandings and talents. Think, for example, of Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Martin Luther King. Mr. Knapp, moreover, was unable to assemble a scintilla of evidence of superior interracial harmony in the postgraduate lives of university students who had been bathed in racial or cultural diversity. As a feeble substitute, he relied upon his experience as an instructor and administrator and "conversations and interactions with members of UGA's teaching faculty… ." Not even anecdotes, however, were forthcoming about identified students whose racial sympathies had been changed for the better because of a racially diverse campus.

Racial diversity crusaders, however, might urge that race relations skills defy measurement. Intuition is all that is available to prove a causal nexus. But personnel officers in government, corporations and universities routinely grade employees for their ability to work with people of other races or cultures. The appraisals fall short of Euclidean exactitude, but are based on firsthand observations and the testimonies of co-workers that are leagues beyond bare speculation or subjectivity. Indeed, litigation pivoting on racial harassment in the workplace brim with such hard evidence.

Despite this vast pool of personnel and litigation data, not a single study was submitted in the Johnson case attempting to show that student body diversity lessened the likelihood of racial prejudice among graduates. Indeed, evidence demonstrated that the theory as applied was tantamount to racial balance for its own sake. One defender declared: "I've often felt that growth [in the number of minorities] is good and that reduction is bad." Another justified UGA's insistence on more than 10 percent minorities among enrollees with a quota explanation: "Well, we know what the makeup of the state is." And the admissions bonus chosen by UGA for non-white status seemed driven by a racial quota mentality, not a quest to mitigate racial bigotry or stereotyping.

UGA's gender bonus for males under the banner of diversity was likewise a ruse. Its admissions director testified the bonus number was not preceded by any educational analysis, but that the institution needed more males because "disproportionately the [freshman class] was becoming more female." That was problematic, according to the admissions chief, "[b]ecause our men are not completing college degrees at the same rate as our females are." A splendid tautology. She was clueless as to any academic benefit derived from gender diversity, noting only that, "My understanding is that diversity is valued on this campus in any number of forms and gender diversity is valued."

Finally, don't racial and gender balancing for their own sakes encourage stereotyping that works more to estrange than to smooth interpersonal relations? Don't they teach that a person should be judged in part by skin color or gender, not exclusively by the content of the individual's character? Doesn't that instruction war with Dr. King's soaring "I have a dream" oration delivered 37 years ago?

Bruce Fein is a lawyer and free-lance writer specializing in legal issues.

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