- - Thursday, July 5, 2018


The Trump administration is rolling back Obama-era efforts to force raced-based admissions at colleges and universities — laudable but hardly enough, considering the harm visited on minorities and others by jaundiced cultures of these institutions.

Obama-era directives to schools went far beyond U.S. Supreme Court precedents that allow race to be considered along with criteria such as the socio-economic backgrounds of applicants. By reissuing Bush-era guidelines, the Trump administration is encouraging race-neutral practices to accomplish diversity.

This tacitly acknowledges that the children of lawyers, corporate executives and the like get as much from sitting alongside the white son of an assistant manager at a Wal-Mart with strong academic credentials as they do attending classes with the African-American son of an orthopedic surgeon with subpar GPA and SAT scores.

Schools don’t need explicit quotas to impose them. The culture of white guilt and minority victimization so imbues academic decisions — from the structuring of syllabuses to politically correct language to disciplining disruptive behavior — that nothing short of requiring universities to ignore race in admissions will end these harmful practices.

A lawsuit filed by Students for Fair Admissions alleges Harvard’s system of ranking applicants by four criteria — academic, extracurricular, athletic and personal — is discriminatory. Applying the latter three requires a lot of training to ensure admissions officials apply consistent values and metrics but Asian students are generally assigned the lowest scores on the last category, which assess whether applicants have a “positive personality.”

A statistical analysis conducted for plaintiffs concludes an Asian student with a 25 percent likelihood of admission would see his chances increase to 36 percent if he were white and 75 and 95 percent if he were Hispanic or African American.

Something smells, and Harvard in true Ivy League hypocrisy will not release to the public the training materials used to ensure admissions officers and alumni, who often interview applicants, apply the standards its president, board of overseers and faculty consider appropriate.

At Harvard, it is highly unlikely that many freshmen are admitted who cannot compete in the classroom — it gets many more applicants with perfect SAT scores or GPAs than it has seats to offer — but its racially and culturally biased practices are mirrored by admission departments formally and informally across the country.

When students are admitted for race or other reasons (for example developmental seats offered children of wealthy and prominent parents and alumni) with substantially lower academic credentials than the average for a class, the likelihood that he will leave without a diploma and in significant debt goes up dramatically. And faculty are pressured to lower content and grading standards to trim casualty lists.

University campuses have become decidedly hostile to conservative values — notions such as becoming an adult consists of marriage and starting a family, individual accountability and economic and social status are more important than race. Instead, a culture that systematically vilifies the contributions of our European heritage to American civilization and that discriminates against white males is the order of the day.

In this environment, speech is tightly policed, faculty cannot require students to defend unpopular positions on social issues — or justify widely held, politically correct attitudes — and students are encouraged to substitute sloganeering for critical thinking. Disruptive, intolerant behavior — outright tyranny — is tolerated and indeed encouraged.

Look at the vilification of Amy Wax at the University of Pennsylvania law school for exploring the impacts of affirmative action on student performance and the consequences of minority cultures on success in our economy and broader society.

No surprise, tests conducted near the beginning and end of university careers indicate many universities — some prestigious and others not — add little to students’ ability to address a body of information and reach well-reasoned conclusions. And employers find many graduates unprepared for entry-level professional or managerial work.

It would be interesting to see how Harvard ranks two students with identical records but one whose primary extracurricular activities are of a female volunteering in organizations championing a woman’s right to choose an abortion and another volunteering at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum — or a male who devoted himself to a Junior Achievement project to launch a software app.

Harvard argues its admission processes are akin to a trade secret — perhaps the secret it wants from public view is the institutionalization of its racial and cultural prejudices.

• Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist.

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