MIT tells prospective faculty how to write a successful diversity statement

November 26, 2022 • 11:45 am

It was inevitable that when universities began requiring diversity statements for prospective faculty, postdocs, and grad students, sites would pop up telling you how to write a good statement.  (Some places will even charge to help you!) This site, from the MIT Communication Lab (click on screenshot below) is fairly extensive, covering not only the format of your 1-2 page statement, but also the content.

Although I was a political activist in college (I’m not going to go through that again), it turns out that there’s no way I could write a statement the way MIT suggests. This means that had this been a critical criterion when I was applying for jobs, I’d be flipping burgers now. Several of my colleagues who have read these requirements have said the same. People would have more burgers, but who would have written a book on speciation?

These DEI statements are often critical. Although the MIT site says this:

A diversity statement alone is unlikely to get you an interview or a job offer, but a well-written diversity statement may enable you to stand out among a large pool of qualified candidates.

. . . in reality, in some places like Berkeley, if your diversity statement isn’t up to muster you have no chance of getting a job, no matter how good your academic qualifications are (see here and here). And since you have to talk about efforts you have made in the past to increase diversity, as well as your philosophy of diversity, you have to start doing social-justice work well before you intend to apply for jobs. Woe to those students who have immersed themselves wholly in quantum mechanics or classical literature out of the love of the field and of knowledge. Without a track record in promoting diversity, as well as a philosophy of diversity, those people are doomed.

I don’t of course object to universities encouraging diversity efforts as a way to “broaden” a candidate, but there are many ways to be broad besides fighting for equity of races and genders. These include doing general outreach to high schools, writing popular books and articles on your field, doing an internship at a newspaper or other organization,, and so on. But those don’t count nearly as much as showing your history of fighting for equity.  And is this attempt to turn universities from places of learning into instruments of specific types of social justice that bothers me. As Stanley Fish said (it’s a book title): “Save the world on your own time.”

And, in the end, DEI statements may be illegal. As my colleague Brian Leiter (a law school prof) pointed out, such required statements, if used to cull candidates, may constitute illegal “viewpoint discrimination”. As he notes:

I recommend that those applying for jobs in the University of California system say only this in the diversity statement:  “I decline to supply this statement which constitutes illegal viewpoint discrimination in violation of my constitutional rights.”   There are already lawyers gearing up to bring legal challenges; I hope they act soon.   If you have been rejected from a University of California search, and suspect it was on grounds of insufficient ideological purity about “diversity,” please get in touch with me.  I can connect you with one public interest legal organization looking for plaintiffs.

But back to the MIT recommendations from this site:


Here’s the recommended breakdown of how you should divide your diversity activities and knowledge:

This means you have to have studied DEI extensively, and have a good track record of “advancing DEI”. I’m surprised they don’t recommend a reading list.

Here’s what you need to do (all quotes are indented):

Identify your purpose:

A faculty application diversity statement is NOT a document explaining how you as a candidate are diverse. While it is fine to include personal stories if they have informed how you think about diversity, this should not be the main focus of the statement. Rather, a diversity statement is an opportunity to show that you care about the inclusion of many forms of identity in academia and in your field, including but not limited to gender, race/ethnicity, age, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, and ability status.

Note: you have to show how much you care, not about the field itself, but about mentoring and gathering in people diverse not in viewpoint but in disability status, race, gender, age, and so on.

And you better know your onions:

As such, a diversity statement should not focus on your own experience but rather your intentions as a professor. It should demonstrate that you are familiar with the importance of DEI issues, outline your experience working with diverse groups and advancing DEI, and identify ways that you will use your position as a leader in your field to have an impact within your community.

Oy! Where’s the reading list?

Demonstrate knowledge of DEI:

As such, a diversity statement should not focus on your own experience but rather your intentions as a professor. It should demonstrate that you are familiar with the importance of DEI issues, outline your experience working with diverse groups and advancing DEI, and identify ways that you will use your position as a leader in your field to have an impact within your community. . .

Demonstrate experience with DEI:

It is not sufficient to demonstrate knowledge about diversity, equity, and inclusion; your statement should also show experience with them. While this need not be a separate section, your statement should make it clear that you have not only thought about DEI in the abstract but have applied that knowledge and are prepared to continue doing so in the future.

There’s other stuff like “be concrete in your future plans” (you’ll have to do more than say you’ll treat all students with equal effort and respect: that’s a statement that will get your application binned). Rather, you have to be absolutely specific in what you will do to promote equity and inclusivity. This is where MIT is more or less writing the application for you:

Note that specific actions are required; you can’t just say “I’ll treat my students equally, regardless of gender, disability, ethnicity, age, and so on.” You have to go to orientation and recruitment events, and act somewhat as a psychologist to your students. Nor do I don’t understand the difference between having a lab that’s “inclusive of women” and “striving for gender parity,” but that’s how it works, so you’d better be on board.

Now the advice to be specific in what you’ll do is not so bad, it’s just that they’re prescribing what you should say. This—along with the site’s other advice—is the compelled speech (and belief) that Leiter thinks may be illegal.  Some day we shall see, but to test the legality of DEI statements you need someone to sue who didn’t get a position (presumably because of a faulty statement). And finding someone with that “standing” may be hard. But come it will, and we shall see.

By the way, you can even see a successful example of a diversity statement published on MIT Communications’ web page, with the useful parts highlighted.  It was submitted by an MIT postdoc who got a faculty position at Brown.  Here’s part of it with the good bits coded in different colors: Pink indicates the recommended subheadings.

h/t: Luana

A conversation between Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bari Weiss on the relationship between blacks and Jews

November 22, 2022 • 12:30 pm

Bari Weiss doesn’t seem to write much on her own Substack site lately, probably because she’s doing podcasts and enlisting a lot of writers to form her own media mini-empire. She does get some good writers, but I do miss her own pieces.

Here’s one conversation she’s recently posted with basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—now a writer, activist, and film-maker.  I haven’t seen his films, but I have read his essays, and they’re good.

The topic of their conversation is something I’ve brought up before: the eroding relationship between African Americans and Jews. As Abdul-Jabbar and Weiss both note, Jews and blacks used to be partners in the civil rights struggle (with blacks taking the lead, of course). Jews, also a disliked minority, found natural affinity with black protestors. Remember that both of the whites killed in the Mississippi murders of Goodman, Cheney, and Schwerner—killed by the Klan for registering blacks to vote—were Jewish.  That is not a random sample of whites.

But lately the relationship is eroding, aided by the anti-Semitism of Louis Farrakhan (and Kanye West!) and a seemingly growing number of attacks on Jews by blacks. Somehow the relationship needs to be repaired from both sides, but I, for one, don’t know how. Here Abdul-Jabbar espouses the comity that used to exist and urges both sides to fight for equality.

Click to read (it’s free, but subscribe if you read often).

I’ll give just three quotes. In the first exchange, Weiss (“BW”) gives a fact that surprised me, one she got from Abdul-Jabbar (“KAJ”):

BW: I want to end by focusing on the relationship more broadly between blacks and Jews in America. In July of 2020, you published a powerful condemnation of antisemitism titled “Where Is the Outrage Over Anti-Semitism in Sports and Hollywood?” Here’s a passage that struck me:

One of the most powerful songs in the struggle against racism is Billie Holiday’s melancholic “Strange Fruit,” which was first recorded in 1939. The song met strong resistance from radio stations afraid of its graphic lyrics about lynching:

Southern trees bear a strange fruit

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Despite those who wanted to suppress the song, it went on to sell a million copies that year and became Holiday’s best-selling record ever. The song was written by a white, Jewish high school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who performed it with his wife around New York before it was given to Holiday.

The American Jewish community I grew up in was one that prided itself on its history of joining black Americans in their fight for civil rights. We knew the names Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, two Jewish civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi in in 1964 alongside James Chaney. We studied the picture of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma. Has that relationship unraveled?

KAJ: I don’t think it has unraveled. The only difference is that those Jews and blacks who never understood how our fates are intertwined now have an instant platform to express their irrational thinking. The majority of Jews have been steadfast in their support of civil rights when other groups have wavered. They have done it on the ground by joining marches, and they have done it in the arts by writing books and movies promoting civil rights. African Americans need to recognize that commitment and do the same for them.

BW: What does healing the bond between our communities look like?

KAJ: The bond doesn’t need healing, because it’s already there. People like Kyrie Irving and Kanye West give the impression that it’s not, but only because we are all surprised by someone from one marginalized group using the same bad, racist arguments against another marginalized group. Even wrong perceptions can become self-fulfilling prophecies if we don’t address them every time they appear.

We don’t have to heal the bond, we have to strengthen it even more by joining together to condemn every act of prejudice against every marginalized group. We must do it swiftly and emphatically.

A discussion of the odious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam:

BW: I want to focus on Farrakhan’s influence. He believes that Jews are parasitic, that Jews are behind a plot to exploit black Americans, and that blacks are the real Jews from the Bible. We’re hearing these ideas come out of the mouths of musicians like Kanye West (“Jewish people have owned the black voice”) and athletes like Kyrie Irving (“I cannot be antisemitic if I know where I come from”). For many Jews, hearing this kind of rhetoric is shocking, but many black Americans have noted that these views are more commonplace than we’d like to admit. So what I think a lot of people are afraid to ask is: How mainstream are these beliefs among black Americans? Are Kanye and Kyrie unique? Or has the influence of people like Farrakhan made this strain of antisemitism somehow more normal than many want to believe?

KAJ: Certain black leaders do exactly what certain white leaders do who want to gather followers, money, and power: They find a scapegoat they can blame. They can’t blame others who are marginalized because of the color of their skin, like Latinx or Asian-Americans, so they go for the default villain of fascists and racists: Jews.

What astounds me is not just the irrationality of it, but how self-destructive it is. Black people have to know that when they mouth antisemitism, they are using the exact same kind of reasoning that white supremacists use against blacks. They are enabling racism. Now they’ve aligned themselves with the very people who would choke out black people, drag them behind a truck, keep them from voting, and maintain systemic racism for another hundred years. They are literally making not only their lives worse, but their children’s lives. The fact that they can’t see that means the racists have won.

Those who condemn Weiss as an alt-righter, racist, and “dark web” adherent should ask themselves, “Would such a person be able to secure an interview with Abdul-Jabbar, much less have a civil and respectful discussion?”

Finally, Abdul-Jabbar’s conclusion:

BW: If you were putting out a statement, what would you say to Jews? To Black Americans?

KAJ: In the words of Marvin Gaye in What’s Going On: “You know we’ve got to find a way/To bring some understanding here today.”

Wouldn’t it be great if a great quote were enough? Marvin may inspire me, but in practical terms I’d say that we have to be mindful of our common goal to live in a country that values us and in which our children will never be called names, humiliated, can walk without fear, can pursue love with anyone they choose, have a fair shot at any profession they choose. That doesn’t just happen. We have to work together to achieve that. And anyone who doesn’t share that goal must be shoved aside.

As Jake tells Bret in the last line of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

It’s a long interview but well worth reading. An as your reward, here are the two songs mentioned in the piece.

Strange Fruit” sung by BIllie Holiday (1959):

Marvin Gaye live, singing “What’s Going On” (he wrote the song) in 1972:

Our College Dean responds to threats and calls for cancellation of a class on the “Problem of Whiteness”

November 22, 2022 • 10:45 am

On November 9 I described a proposed University of Chicago course, “The Problem of Whiteness”, to be taught under the aegis of CRES (“Critical Race and Ethnic Studies”). The course was brought to national attention—publicized, as usual, by right-wing venues like this one—via the tweets of one of our undergraduates:

As I described, the course was postponed for one quarter after, according to WBEZ, the instructor received death threats and other disturbing email. According to WBEZ, the postponement gave time for the course to develop a “safety plan”, which it may well need!

Rebecca Journey, a teaching fellow who earned a Ph.D. in anthropology from UChicago, said her class analyzes whiteness as a social construct and dismissed “disingenuous” claims that it stokes “anti-white hatred.” She’s pushing the course to the spring quarter to give university officials time to develop a safety plan for her and her students.

Journey’s response in the article is good with one caveat: she called Schmidt a “cyberterrorist”, which is inflammatory and sets faculty against student. Not that I am a fan of Schmidt’s, though!  For as I described at the time, and still believe, while the course troubles me as a harbinger of “theory” affecting Universities throughout the U.S., as well as a potential chilling of speech here, in the end this is a matter of academic freedom.  Faculty members can teach what they want so long as it’s approved by the curriculum committee. I wrote this:

Although I don’t like the tenor of this course, which seems both anti-white and divisive, I cannot demand that it be canceled. What an instructor decides to teach is a matter of academic freedom, and if her department approves the course, it’s their call, not mine.  I of course worry that the University of Chicago will become as woke as some of its peers, which regularly teach courses like this, but while I can criticize the effect and content of such courses as socially inimical, I cannot and will not call or lobby for the course’s elimination or demand that the instructor be criticized—much less threatened—for teaching it.

Our University responded in a way that makes me proud—and in the usual manner—by defending the instructor’s desire to teach the course because to do otherwise would be to suppress our principles of free speech and academic freedom. And, as in its refusal to punish geophysical science professor Dorian Abbot for posting videos criticizing DEI efforts, the University doesn’t name the faculty member. (Abbot was the subject of a petition, signed by many faculty, students, and alumni, basically calling for his head on a plate.)

On November 15, John Boyer, Dean of the College, presented the statement below to the College Council, a group of elected faculty that meets regularly and deals with University affairs. The doings and sayings of the College Council are confidential, but I went to the administration asking permission to reproduce Dean Boyer’s statement, which they granted. I quote it below. The bolding is mine.

I wish to address the troubling phenomenon of cyber-bullying and classroom intimidation.  Recently an incident occurred on our campus involving cyber-bullying where the clear purpose was to change or limit the content of a course or the expression of ideas by students or instructors by means of the mobilization of anonymous threats and public harassment.

Strong engagement from students and colleagues about fundamental academic issues is one of the defining virtues of the University of Chicago.  This encompasses the right to debate the intellectual content of courses and the way we choose to teach courses, and is not only expected but welcomed as part of the extraordinary vitality of our educational practices and traditions.

Yet our traditions of the freedom of expression presume that this engagement takes place in the open realm of ideas and robust deliberation, with the purpose of articulating the best ideas and persuading others of their logic and substance.  Coercion of any kind must play no role in such debates.   Mass social media is an especially complex area of deliberation, in that it can enable outsiders who do not share these ideals to seek to influence the design and process of instruction, and often in ways that do not respect the safety, security, and autonomy of our campus community.  

In today’s climate we must reaffirm that our faculty have complete discretion over what they choose to teach and how they present material.   Similarly, our students have the freedom to select courses that best support their academic development and preferences.  

We will permit neither outsiders nor insiders to claim control of any part of our curriculum or to intimidate any member of our community in practicing their rights to free expression.   Intimidation, whether overt or covert, anonymous or named, is destructive to the core values of this University.

John W. Boyer

Boyer is referring here not to normal criticism or pushback, but to “intimidation”, i.e., threats to or harassment of the instructor. Note that Schmidt will not of course not be punished for what he tweeted, nor, I think, will anybody else, though threats of harm and death should surely be investigated.

And so we beat on, boats against the current of authoritarianism and the wokeness of the Online Mob.

Law prof Jeannie Suk Gersen on the Supreme Court’s affirmative action hearing, and how Harvard and other schools will evade its ruling

November 20, 2022 • 9:30 am

Jeannie Suk Gersen is the John H. Watson, Jr. Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, teaching constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, family law, and the law of art, fashion, and the performing arts. In the free New Yorker article below (click to read), Gersen attended the one-day Supreme Court hearing in which Students for Fair Admission (SFFA) challenged Harvard and the University of North Carolina’s race-based admission practices, which, SFFA argued, discriminated against Asian-American applicants. Gersen’s been writing for the New Yorker for some time, and attended the hearings as a representative of the press.

As you may recall, the way Harvard kept down the number of Asian-American students (thereby giving minorities and whites preferential admission) was by application-readers in the admissions department giving Asians low “personality scores”, which reduced their chance of admission under the “holisitic” system. (Asian Americans also had lower athletic scores manifested as “extracurricular activities, but that wasn’t a bone of contention.)

Curiously, alums who (as part of the admissions process) actually interviewed Asian-American applicants did NOT give them lower “personality scores”, implying that there was some manipulation of scores by the admissions office itself. I believe this is the case, but two lower courts ruled that this did not constitute egregious race-based admission because any discrimination—and yes, the statistics show there was some—was based on “implicit biases. . . that could not be eliminated in a process that must rely on judgments about individuals”. In other words, evidence of anti-Asian American bias was evidence of race-based discrimination, but not evidence of intentional discrimination. (Didn’t the administrators receive “implicit bias” training?)

SFFA appealed all the way up to the Supreme Court, and it’s almost certain that the Court will rule for the plaintiffs, overturning the 1978 Bakke decision and affirmative action itself.

What’s interesting about Gersen’s report are two things: the lack of preparation for the defense on the “personality scores” issue, for which they had no good explanation, and Gersen’s take about how schools like Harvard will circumvent the Court’s likely decision to keep the minority enrollment from decreasing. Gersen, by the way, says she’s a supporter of affirmative action.

The cluelessness of the defense.  Indented bits are quotes from Gersen’s piece. Bolding is mine

The strongest aspect of the discrimination claim against Harvard involves something called the personal rating. As early as 1969, the Crimson reported that the personal rating, assigned by admissions officers based on interviews, high-school officials’ reports, and essays, “has become by far the most important factor in Harvard’s admissions process,” because the increased academic strength of the applicant pool was making it harder to select students based on grades and test scores. It reported that, for the class of 1968, “there is just about no correlation between admission to Harvard and such factors as SAT scores, rank-in-class, and predicted rank list,” but “the correlation between admissions and the personal factor is better than 90 per cent.” The article quoted the dean of admissions saying, “We are justified and obligated to trust a hunch.”

When the Harvard case first went to trial, in 2018, S.F.F.A. alleged that Harvard uses the personal rating, in which admissions officers score applicants on qualities such as “integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness,” even “effervescence,” to discriminate against Asian American applicants. Admissions records showed that, despite alumni interviewers, who met with applicants, having given Asian students scores that were as high or higher than those of white students, admissions officers, who normally did not meet with applicants, gave Asians the lowest personal ratings of any racial group. The trial, which I attended, focussed on these disconcerting questions: Did Asian students, who had higher academic and extracurricular ratings than white applicants, actually have worse personalities than all others? Or was the personal rating concealing an impermissible racial quota?

At Monday’s arguments, Justice Samuel Alito grilled Harvard about Asians’ low personal ratings. “It has to be one of two things. It has to be that they really do lack integrity, courage, kindness, and empathy to the same degree as students of other races, or there has to be something wrong with this personal score,” he said. “Why are they given a lower score than any other group?” The question was one that Harvard’s lawyer must have been preparing to answer for at least four years. And yet the seasoned Supreme Court advocate Seth Waxman, a former U.S. Solicitor General, seemed cornered and stuck. During several uncomfortable minutes, he at first tried to deflect the question; then, somewhere in the midst of multiple attempts by Alito to get him to answer, an assist from the Chief Justice, and Waxman’s telling assurance, “I’m not trying to filibuster you,” he managed to say that the personal ratings reflect “what teachers said, what guidance counselors said, what these students wrote” in essays. (Those inputs would have to be quite poor to offset the alumni interviewers’ high scores.) In other words, Asian applicants deserved the low personal ratings—or, perhaps, if there was any discrimination, it was by high-school officials, not Harvard.

Surely Waxman, who in general argued well, could have prepared better for Alito’s excellent question. But how could he have? The scores were significantly lower than those for other groups, but were lower only from Harvard officials who never met the applicants, not from those who personally interviewed the applicants. Ergo, blame it on the letters of recommendation. But that’s not a credible answer, nor is the claim that one’s “personality score” could be at all discerned from essays. All the evidence is that Harvard discriminated, supposedly out of “implicit bias.”

How colleges will circumvent the likely ruling.

But the “implicit bias” trope may, says Gersen, be the way that American universities get around the upcoming ruling. While they can’t use racial classification as a criterion for entry, they could use indications of it—not from “personality scores,” but aspects of a more “holistic admissions analysis” that would show racial minorities had compensating virtues, like overcoming difficulties.

It is conceivable that the Court could hold that the district court erred in finding that Harvard did not discriminate against Asians in assigning personal ratings, but such a ruling would not necessarily overrule cases allowing affirmative action; rather, it would mean that Harvard defied the Court’s precedents. It’s more likely that the Court will use this case to end or severely limit affirmative action, without disturbing the district court’s factual conclusion that Asians didn’t suffer intentional discrimination here. Such a decision would not make personal ratings go away, given that Harvard says they are supposed to be assigned without considering race. If the Court prohibits the use of race, so that race-neutral methods become the only permissible means to achieve diversity, schools will likely play with formulas to produce a diverse class in which Asian admissions don’t get unacceptably out of proportion. 

It’s odd that Gersen, an Asian American herself, uses the words “unacceptably out of proportion”, which is invidious and implies a quota for Asians. What proportion of Asians, for example, is the upper bound on “acceptable”?

But what about test scores? Asian-Americans score higher than any other group. Here, from a 2018 story in the Harvard Crimson, is an 18-year series of SAT scores for admitted Harvard students. Asians are way up on top, followed by whites, and with non-Asian minorities together at the lower rank.

A Crimson analysis of the previously confidential dataset — which spans admissions cycles starting with the Class of 2000 and ends with the cycle for the Class of 2017 — revealed that Asian-Americans admitted to Harvard earned an average SAT score of 767 across all sections. Every section of the SAT has a maximum score of 800.

By comparison, white admits earned an average score of 745 across all sections, Hispanic-American admits earned an average of 718, Native-American and Native-Hawaiian admits an average of 712, and African-American admits an average of 704.

And here are Harvard’s own data on the ethnicity of students admitted in the class of 2026.  Without the “personality score” adjustment, the proportion of Asian Americans would be substantially higher and that of everyone else lower (see below):

But the way around this is simply to devalue test scores (and grades), and raise the value of less tangible scores in a way that would benefit minorities. It’s a way to discern “other” characters that aren’t given a metric, like the notorious personality scores.

Gerson explains:

[Harvard] may reduce reliance on race-neutral factors in which Asians have done well, such as standardized tests, and increase reliance on race-neutral factors in which Asians have not done as well. The personal rating and similar mushy factors could become far more determinative, because they are places where admissions officers will continue to have great discretion to bump applicants up or down based on subjective assessments so long as they are not consciously using race. Prohibiting the explicit reliance on race may even push universities to fall back on the cover of implicit bias, which is not unlawful discrimination. This could leave Asian applicants worse off than they are now. If anything, the personal-ratings morass may suggest that what’s needed to check unconscious biases are more transparently and forthrightly race-conscious efforts, not less.

Even the SFFA suggested how this might work:

In the U.N.C. case, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson worried that if “a university can take into account and value all of the other background and personal characteristics of other applicants, but they can’t value race,” that policy could actively disadvantage minorities who wish to convey the importance of race in their lives. But S.F.F.A. suggested that eliminating affirmative action does not mean disallowing applicants from writing about their racial backgrounds, or blinding admissions officers from knowing the race of an applicant. S.F.F.A.’s lawyer against U.N.C., Patrick Strawbridge, said that, though admissions officers could not credit an applicant’s race, they could credit an applicant’s cultural experience as an African immigrant. Kagan observed, “The race is part of the culture and the culture is part of the race, isn’t it? I mean, that’s slicing the baloney awfully thin.” Cameron Norris, S.F.F.A.’s lawyer against Harvard, said, “Culture, tradition, heritage are all not off-limits for students to talk about and for universities to consider.” He continued, “They can’t read that and say, ‘Oh, this person is Hispanic or Black or Asian, and, therefore, I’m going to credit that.’ They need to credit something unique and individual in what they actually wrote, not race itself.”

It seems that what S.F.F.A. is insisting on is a formal conceptual distinction—between crediting “race itself” and crediting individuals’ stories about their racial backgrounds—that makes little practical difference. If the Court issues a ruling that tracks with this idea, then, after affirmative action is gone, schools will not give any applicant a plus for “race itself,” but they will still consider race in the context of an applicant’s story.

. . . Justice Sonia Sotomayor made the point most plainly, saying that relying on race-neutral alternatives, including socioeconomic status, are really “all subterfuges to reaching some sort of diversity in race.” She echoed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent in Gratz v. Bollinger, the 2003 case in which the Court held that a school could not automatically award extra points to underrepresented racial minorities. Ginsburg anticipated that what universities cannot do “in full candor,” they “may resort to camouflage” to accomplish: “For example, schools may encourage applicants to write of their cultural traditions in the essays they submit, or to indicate whether English is their second language. Seeking to improve their chances for admission, applicants may highlight the minority group associations to which they belong, or the Hispanic surnames of their mothers or grandparents.

As Gersen says, this is a distinction without a difference. And I’m not sure how colleges can evaluate intangible factors without giving them a ranking, but the Supreme Court may, in its ruling, even forestall this possibility by prohibiting “implicit bias” if there’s a statistical way to judge it (i.e., ratings of some sort).  If those ratings happen to be correlated with race—as were the personality scores—then again we have unacceptable evidence for race-based admissions.

I’m still struggling with the issue of affirmative action, which I have favored, and Gersen’s essay didn’t help. One thing I know, though, is that the concept of an “unacceptably high” proportion of Asians (or of any race) is revolting. It’s a return to the old quota system, but with the quotas remaining implicit. One thing we know, though is that 43% of the student body being Asian is “unacceptably high”. On the other hand, schools lacking minorities don’t speak well of America. (Some like John McWhorter say that this is okay: those who required affirmative action for admission could simply go to colleges with less strict criteria for admission.)

This is from the Guardian (link above):

The lawsuit claims that, in 2013, Harvard killed an internal report about its admissions policies which acknowledged that it discriminates against prospective Asian American students.

The report found that Asian Americans would comprise 43% of admissions if only academic qualifications were considered and 26% when extracurricular activities and personal ratings were considered. Yet at the time the research was conducted, Asian Americans made up 19% of the share of admitted students. [JAC: see data above: the figure is now 27.9%.]

I have been favoring socioeconomic factors as things to consider during admissions. This would raise the proportion of minority students, I think. Sotomayor says this is just a “subterfuge”—a “back door” way of boosting minority attendance. But I think you can justify socioeconomic factors as being worthy of consideration on their own: as a way to raise the diversity not of ethnicity, but of social class and wealth. It’s a way of achieving class rather than racial equity, but they’re correlated.

Two things are certain. The court will rule, probably 6-3, for the plaintiffs, thereby killing affirmative action. But also certain is that affirmative action will rise from the dead as colleges figure out ways around the Court’s ruling so to achieve what they consider “acceptable” balance. After all, much of the administration of American colleges is involved in DEI efforts, and a reduction in the number of minorities could cost people their jobs. Given the elaborate DEI structure in many schools, downsizing it will be unacceptable.