At TGA we have a radical theory.
Here it is: the best way to end racial discrimination is to stop discriminating based on race.
For this reason, we expect everyone to be against affirmative action.
But there are other reasons besides the inherent unfairness of affirmative action's racial discrimination when it comes to college and university admissions or job hiring.
The most important is the data shows affirmative action actually harms the very minorities it presumes to help.
This includes mismatch theory (see below), decreased post-collegiate income, and the stigma minorities face as to whether or not they received their college admission letters or jobs because they were the most deserving and best qualified, as opposed to having unfairly benefited from a system in which affirmative action and quotas are used.
At TGA, we take these issues seriously. Our members, friends, and relatives, all include racial minorities who have been hurt by the unfortunate stigma attached to those who belong to groups receiving affirmative action preferences, not to mention the discrimination our other members, relatives, and friends have faced in being denied opportunities due to no fault of their own save having been born with the wrong skin tone.
As to mismatch theory (there is a whole book detailing it which you can get at the library), a recent report written by a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission makes an overwhelming case based on empirical evidence that the problems with affirmative action make it worth eliminating.
From the report:
One of the consequences of widespread race-preferential admissions policies is that talented minority students end up distributed among colleges and universities in patterns that are very different from those of their white and Asian counterparts. When the schools that are highest on the academic ladder relax their admissions policies in order to admit more underrepresented minority students, schools one rung down must do likewise or they will have far fewer underrepresented minority students than they would have had under a general color-blind admissions policy. The problem is thus passed on to the schools another rung down, which respond similarly. As a result, students from underrepresented minorities today are concentrated at the bottom of the distribution of entering academic credentials at most selective colleges and universities.
The problem is not that no academically gifted African-American or Hispanic students are seeking admission to colleges and universities. The nation is fortunate to have many. But there are not enough at the very top tiers to satisfy the demand, and efforts to change that have had a pernicious effect on admissions up and down the academic pecking order, creating a serious credentials gap at every competitive level.
Unfortunately, a student whose entering academic credentials are well below those of the average student in a particular school will likely earn grades to match. The reason is simple: Entering academic credentials matter. While some students will outperform their academic credentials, just as some students will underperform theirs, most students perform in the range that their entering credentials suggest. Anyone who claims differently is engaging in wishful thinking at students’ expense.
Some of the best available data on this point are for law schools. In elite law schools, 51.6 percent of African-American law students had first-year GPAs in the bottom 10 percent of their class as opposed to only 5.6 percent of white students. Nearly identical gaps existed at law schools at all levels (with the exception of historically minority schools). At mid-range public law schools, the median African-American student’s first-year grades corresponded to the 5th percentile among white students; for mid-range private schools, the median for African-American students corresponded to the 7th percentile among white students.
Overall, with disappointingly few exceptions, African-American students were grouped toward the bottom of their classes. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the gap in grades did not close as students continued through law school. Instead, by graduation, it became wider.
I am not aware of anyone who disputes these figures. Even strong supporters of racial preferences have conceded that the problem is “real and serious” and that “the average black law student’s grades are startlingly low.”
William G. Bowen and Derek Bok, authors of The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions, are long-time advocates of race-based admissions policies. As former presidents of Princeton and Harvard, respectively, they can fairly be said to have been among those who invented race-based admissions. Nevertheless, they candidly admit that the credentials gap has serious consequences: “College grades [for beneficiaries of affirmative action] present a … sobering picture,” they wrote. “The grades earned by African-American students at the [elite schools we studied] often reflect their struggles to succeed academically in highly competitive academic settings.”
Why are poor grades a problem? Why is it not better to get bad grades at a top school than better grades at a school that is one or two rungs down from the top? Everyone knows that a good student can get in over his head if he is placed in a classroom with students whose level of academic preparation is much higher than his own. He can end up learning less than he would have been capable of otherwise. Such a student, through no fault of his own, has been “mismatched.”
I have every confidence, for example, that I could learn basic physics, despite the fact that I have never taken a course in it and my mathematics skills are a little rusty. On the other hand, if you were to throw me into the Basic Physics course at the California Institute of Technology with many of the very best science students in the world, I would be lost and likely to learn little if anything. I would be mismatched. On a good day I might make a few lame jokes about how law professors just are not geeky enough to do physics; on a bad day, I might even get a little prickly about it. But it is unlikely that I would come out of that class as competent in the basic principles of physics as I would have in a less high-powered setting.
What is remarkable is that anyone thought that recipients of affirmative action would somehow be immune to this phenomenon, which subtly or not so subtly affects us all at one time or another.
Sometimes the problem is that a less than stellar performance leads to a loss of enthusiasm for academic pursuits and causes students to put their energies into other endeavors like athletics, social life, or campus politics. Everyone needs a niche. If, for the beneficiaries of racial preferences, excelling at academics in their peer group seems out of reach, they will look to stand out in other ways. Alas, the other ways available to them are usually less effective at promoting their integration into high-prestige careers and thus into mainstream society.
Whatever the mechanism . . . the evidence is getting very nearly overwhelming at this point: Race-preferential admissions policies as practiced today are hurting, not helping, when it comes to jump-starting the careers of preference recipients.
Another consequence of affirmative action is how the academic performance issues created by institutional and student "mismatch" result in the purported beneficiaries of affirmative action developing a sense of disillusionment with the schools they attend and resentment toward their better performing peers. This leads many to develop victim complexes and immerse themselves in grievance industry classes. The result is withdrawal and more self-segregation which defeats one of the main arguments used to defend affirmative action, which is that it leads to greater "diversity."
Here's affirmative action experts Stuart Taylor and Richard Sander explaining how mismatch theory works out in practice . . .
Studies show that this academic “mismatch effect” forces them (ed.--affirmative action "beneficiaries") to drop science and other challenging courses; to move into soft, easily graded, courses disproportionately populated by other preferentially admitted students; and to abandon career hopes such as engineering and pre-med. Many lose intellectual self-confidence and become unhappy even if they avoid flunking out.
This depresses black performance at virtually all selective schools because of what experts call the cascade effect. Here’s how it works, as Richard Sander and I demonstrated in a 2012 book, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It:
Only 1 to 2 percent of black college applicants emerge from high school well-qualified academically for (say) the top Ivy League colleges. Therefore, those schools can meet their racial admissions targets only by using large preferences. They bring in black students who are well qualified for moderately elite schools like (say) the University of North Carolina, but not for the Ivies that recruit them. This leaves schools like UNC able to meet their own racial targets only by giving large preferences to black students who are well qualified for less selective schools like (say) the University of Missouri but not for UNC. And so on down the selectivity scale.
As a result, experts agree, most black students at even moderately selective schools — with high school preparation and test scores far below those of their classmates — rank well below the middle of their college and grad school classes, with between 25% and 50% ranking in the bottom tenth. That’s a very bad place to be at any school.
This, in turn, increases these students’ isolation and self-segregation from the higher-achieving Asians and whites who flourish in more challenging courses. At least one careful study shows that students are more likely to become friends with peers who are similar in academic accomplishment.
Put yourself in the position of many Hispanic and especially black students (recipients of by far the largest racial preferences) at selective schools, who may work heroically during the first semester only to be lost in many classroom discussions and dismayed by their grades.
As they start to see the gulf between their own performance and that of most of their fellow students, dismay can become despair. They soon realize that no matter how hard they work, they will struggle academically.
It is critical to understand that these are not bad students. They did well in high school and could excel at somewhat less selective universities where they would arrive roughly as well prepared as their classmates.
But due to racial preferences, they find themselves for the first time in their lives competing against classmates who have a huge head start in terms of previous education, academic ability, or both.
Researchers have shown that racial preference recipients develop negative perceptions of their own academic competence, which in turn harms their performance and even their mental health, through “stereotype threat” and other problems. They may come to see themselves as failures in the eyes of their families, their friends, and themselves.
Such mismatched minority students are understandably baffled and often bitter about why this is happening to them. With most other minority students having similar problems, their personal academic struggles take on a collective, racial cast.
What's troubling is how universities avoid informing students who get in because of affirmative action of the problems associated with being placed in a classroom environment for which they're academically unsuited. They don't inform these students that by choosing to attend an elite school rather than one for which they're better matched, that they're more likely to switch majors, are at risk for lower grades, and have a higher chance of dropping out. Many of these institutions have attempted to mitigate the effects of mismatch by providing special educational programs for these students in the weeks prior to classes starting in addition to financial, mentoring, and tutoring opportunities not afforded to groups which don't receive affirmative action.
Taylor and Spencer go on to describe the case of one student they met for whom the problems with getting accepted into an institution under affirmative action were made very real. Luckily, after dropping out "Joe" later returned to his institution and graduated. But sadly too many students give up their college plans or change to less prestigious majors that they would have otherwise kept had they gone to a college for which they were a better academic fit.
Consider the case of a student whom I will call Joe, as told in Mismatch. He breezed through high school in Syracuse, New York, in the top 20 percent of his class. He had been class president, a successful athlete, and sang in gospel choir. He was easily admitted to Colgate, a moderately elite liberal arts college in rural New York; no one pointed out to Joe that his SAT scores were far below the class median.
Joe immediately found himself over his head academically, facing far more rigorous coursework than ever before. “Nobody told me what would be expected of me beforehand,” Joe later recalled. “I really didn’t know what I was getting into. And it all made me feel as if I wasn’t smart enough.”
But just as surprising and upsetting was the social environment in which Joe found himself. “I was immediately stereotyped and put into a box because I was African American,” he recalled. “And that made it harder to perform. People often made little derogatory comments.…There was a general feeling that all blacks on campus were there either because they were athletes or they came through a minority recruitment program.… That was just assumed right away.”
It was also, unfortunately, quite true. That’s why racial preferences are an extremely powerful generator of racial stereotypes about intellectual abilities. Joe was forced by bad grades to drop out after his freshman year, though he eventually returned to Colgate and obtained his bachelor’s degree.
Not many mismatched students complain — even if they figure out — that the root of their problems is that they are not well-qualified to compete with their classmates. The universities, the media, and others do their best to conceal and deny this connection. And it is human nature to seek less humiliating, more sinister explanations.
The grievance-prone college culture offers ready targets for these frustrated students to blame for their plight: wildly exaggerated and sometimes fabricated instances of racism, trivial perceived “microaggressions,” and the very real racial isolation that is largely due to racially preferential admissions — all leading to a supposedly hostile learning environment.
Another common reaction is to withdraw into racial enclaves within the campus. Many universities encourage this by creating black dormitories and even by assigning entering students to them.
Racial, intellectual, economic, social, religious, and political diversity can greatly enrich the educational experience — but not when engineered through large preferences that do more harm than good to their supposed beneficiaries, not to mention to the stronger students who are passed over to make room for racial-preference recipients.
All this goes a long way toward explaining the over-the-top demands now roiling our campuses for still more racial admissions preferences; more preferentially hired, underqualified professors; more grievance-focused courses and university bureaucrats; more university-sponsored racial enclaves; and more apologies for “white privilege.”
Georgetown's administration does no favors for minority students when it keeps hidden from them the facts about the negative consequences affirmative action has on them. Nor does it serve them when the University encourages a sense of victimization and fosters a grievance culture by refusing to speak honestly and plainly about the harm race-based preferences cause, or by not countering student and faculty activists who falsely promote the idea that Georgetown is a racist institution in which minority students are discriminated against and oppressed. All it does is delay Dr. King's dream of a color-blind society and promote resentment among racial groups.
Summary: Affirmative action causes those who get in because of it to do less well than their peers because they are less academically prepared. This leads to a host of other problems, such as lower grades, disillusionment with the school, becoming embittered, and the changing of majors and career plans from those they originally entered college with and would likely have continued to pursue had they gone to another institution where their academic credentials and preparation meant that they were in the center, as opposed to the bottom-rung, of their peer group.