But the increasingly glaring contact between elite institutional practice and constitutional principle is driving the case against racial quotas and preferences. “Governmental use of race must have a logical end point,” Justice Sandra O’Connor wrote in Grutter v. Bollinger, allowing racial preferences at Michigan Law School. “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”
That was in 2003. Ten years left to go.
Except it may come sooner. Earlier this month, the Trump administration’s Education and Justice Department withdrew six possibly illegal guidance letters issued to colleges and universities by their Obama administration predecessors, each one encouraging racial discrimination in admissions.
Harvard, meanwhile, faces a lawsuit from Asian plaintiffs who charge the elite school with racial discrimination against Asians, similar to its discrimination against Jews from the 1920s to the 1950s, designed to prevent the overrepresentation that their academic achievement might justify. Discovery in the case has revealed that Harvard lowballs “personality” ratings of Asian applicants who have high test scores, grades, and extracurriculars. In other words, not the kind we want in our country club.
For me, the clinching argument against racial discrimination in admissions is not how it hurts Asians or, to a much lesser extent, whites, but how it hurts the intended beneficiaries. As Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor showed in their 2012 book Mismatch, and as subsequent research has confirmed, black and Hispanic students who are less well prepared than their schoolmates tend to struggle with instruction pitched to others more advanced. They are thus more likely to shun science and tech courses and to drop out without degrees, weighed down in many cases by debts they cannot pay.