26. Affirmative Action and Its Discontents

Alma Mater/Spring 2014
April 30, 2014

26. Affirmative Action and Its Discontents

The Conservative Critique:
Academics insufficiently bullish on America; lacking in patriotism; less so than in the “consensus” 1950s;
dissociating themselves from American “exceptionalism”……
Universities as temples of/to “political correctness”

Too supportive of identity politics, multiculturalism, deconstructionism, critical studies, subaltern studies….
Too given over to downplaying the value of western civilization – Stanford/Yale cases
1988 – Jesse Jackson on campus — ”Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s got to go.”

Conservative academic organizations
International Council on the Future of the University – Early 1970s
European universities being controlled by unions; students…..
National Association of Scholars (1987)

December 2013 — Reaction to American Studies Association pledge to boycott Israeli higher educational events. Pretty widespread criticism of ASA action by universities, learned societies




What has been the most significant change in the upper reaches of  American academe life (e.g., at Columbia )  in the last half- century?   Since 1970 or so?

1. The increased presence of women on select campuses –
as students at previously male colleges;   [among CU undergraduates – 65%]
as faculty in previously nearly-all-male faculties; [All CU — 40%; with TC/BC à >50%]
as administrators – presidents [26%] /provosts/CFOs/athletic directors/heads of security…
CU unusual in not having has a woman president among Ivies – Harvard/Penn/Brown/Princeton

2. The increased competition for admission to these colleges
1970 – Stanford admitted 24% of its applicants;   today – 6%
CC 40%?? à8%?
Selection rates for  the 40 most  selective institutions (< 25%)
Top 10 –all with < 10% acceptance rates

3. The change in who is paying the tuition bills ??
[Likely less among us than elsewhere because top schools still “need blind”]
Decline in state support
Foundation support for graduate studies
Increased reliance on draining parental savings and/or  student-incurred loans??

4. The shift away from liberal arts majors to more professionally-directed ones??
[Again, less apparent on top campuses where  arts and science departments holding on]
Current push to STEM majors even here….
5. The lower public esteem in which these institutions are held??
Too expensive – to unwilling to use their endowments except to increase them
From environmentalists —  resistance to divestment campaigns – recently, against
fossil fuel producers….
Too liberal – not reflective of nation’s politics
Too elitist/too  “smarty pants”

The most controversial political position of these institutions
Too wedded/stubbornly committed to “affirmative action” efforts to increase presence of blacks
and Latinos on their campuses  — to the detriment of all other groups


Richard Leung 4/28 posting

“Affirmative action” phrase entered language with employment legislation of the New Deal and JFK administration – limited to assuring non-discriminatory employment practices

LBJ – use AA to call upon universities to actively recruit underrepresented  minorities (Blacks, Latinos, NAs)

Regents of UC v. Bakke (1978) – Regents could not use a quota system to secure admission of a certain number of minority applicants, but could use race as a factor in deciding admissions

Gratz v. Bollinger (2004) – admission to U Michigan undergraduate program – not OK

Grutter v. Bollinger (2004) – admission to UMichigan law school – OK

Fisher v. University Texas (2011) – 10% admit rule of legislature not to be gone around by UT admissions folks because they deem it insufficient to achieve wanted diversity

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action  (April 22, 2014)  (6 to 2)
An amendment to Michigan’s constitution that prohibits state universities from considering race as part of its admissions process does not violate the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause.

7 states —  among them, Michigan, California, Washington, Maryland,  with anti AA legislation


California – With an anti-AA law 9Proposition 209) on books since late 1996 (56% to 44% by referendum)
Recent proposal to reintroduce AA considerations
Proposed by Hispanic legislator; opposed by Asian Americans; withdrawn….

Ethnic/Racial Group



U. Cal. System
Admissions in 2012

Index of parity
(1.00 = admission
rate same % as population)

Non-Hispanic Whites










African Americans





Asian Americans





Native American





Are admissions committees keeping the numbers of Asian Americans down by making their admission requirements stiffer??
UCal/Berkeley dispute —  Before and since 1996








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